Does the number of siblings you have harm your mental health? If you have a large family, then yes

Does the number of siblings you have harm your mental health? If you have a large family, then yes

Did you ever wonder whether the presence of your brothers and sisters contributes to your overall happiness?

A new study suggests that a higher number of siblings is associated with poorer mental health, although numerous factors must be considered.

Трубочисты Петербурга

The study involved 9,417 Chinese teenagers and 9,191 American teenagers, each receiving slightly different sets of questions.

“Our results couldn’t have been easily predicted before we did the study,” Doug Downey, the study’s lead author and professor of sociology at the Ohio State University, said in a statement.

“Other studies have shown that having more siblings is associated with some positive effects, so our results were not a given,” he added.

One of the factors that could explain the results is the concept of “resource dilution”.

In psychology, “resource dilution” suggests that the availability of parental resources, such as time, attention, and finances, decreases as the number of children in a family increases.

This, in turn, can have an impact on various aspects of a child’s development, including their cognitive, social, and emotional well-being.

Teenagers with one or no siblings report better mental health

“If you think of parental resources like a pie, one child means that they get all the pie – all the attention and resources of the parents,” he said.

“But when you add more siblings, each child gets fewer resources and attention from the parents, and that may have an impact on their mental health”.

“This combination of results is not easily explained. We still have more to learn about the impact of siblings,” Downey said.

“This is particularly important now as the US and other countries have lower fertility rates. Understanding the consequences of growing up with fewer or no brothers and sisters is an increasingly important social issue”.

However, additional research is necessary to determine how different factors — such as the socioeconomic situation — play a part in mental health.

As a previous Downey-led study found, having siblings also offers advantages: kindergarten children with siblings showed better social skills.

Another study from 2016 from the University of Umea, which was not conducted by Downey, also showed that in Sweden, growing up in a large family did not correlate with a detrimental effect on physical and mental health in midlife.


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