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Why sisters are good for you

Girls are top! It's official. That is the conclusion of yet another study that shows that having loving siblings, especially girls - is the best treatment against adolescent unhappiness. Read on to know why.

sex and relationships Updated: Oct 29, 2010 15:00 IST

A new report adds to the evidence that having sisters is good for your mental health. The study, this time by researchers at Brigham Young University, that purports to show that having loving siblings of either gender - but especially girls - is the best prophylactic against adolescent unhappiness. No matter whether the sister is younger or older, or the age difference between you, they increase wellbeing and even your penchant for doing good deeds in the world - above and beyond that which even loving parents manage to promote.



The report follows a study involving 571 families by De Montfort University and the University of Ulster published last year, which showed that siblings who lived with their sisters scored higher on the standard range of tests for good mental health. The project was prompted by an earlier investigation that revealed girls with sisters suffered less distress when they encountered trouble later in their lives than those without.



SistersResearchers wanted to find out how extensive the effects of sisterhood could be. It is notable that all the above studies locate the benefits of sisterhood as arising in older childhood - once the initial sibling rivalry and the smarting pain of the knowledge that from now on there will always be someone younger and cuter than you around to grab the attention has worn off. Because wear off it does, and it did. Most children bond in the face of what is interpreted as - wholly correctly in our case, I will insist until my last breath - increasing parental unreasonableness. We are all familiar with the first overt alliance, that first exercise of mutual support, and gave us something to build on as we became thirsty for even more heady freedoms in the years to come.



Most of the reports suggest that it is girls' greater capacity for emotional expression that provides most of the benefits to the family that has them. As Professor Tony Cassidy, of the 2009 study from the University of Ulster, puts it: "Where there are a number of boys together, there is almost a conspiracy of silence.



Guardian News Service