A new study suggests that the age difference between siblings can impact their mental health, with smaller age gaps leading to poorer outcomes overall. Dr. Gardere explains that this trend is related to the tendency for parents to treat siblings close in age the same way and not recognize their individual needs. This can lead to increased awareness of others among teens and subsequent competition and comparison, potentially leading to anxiety and self-esteem issues.
However, there are also positive mental health benefits to having siblings. Research shows that siblings can provide emotional support, companionship, and a built-in social network, as well as a unique understanding of each other’s experiences. Dr. Gardere notes that the support given by siblings can fill the void left by the diluted attention from parents, similar to being part of a band or sports team.
In order to mitigate the potential negative impacts of sibling relationships on mental health, parents should be mindful of their children’s individual needs and perspectives, and avoid treating siblings close in age as if they are the same. It’s also important to encourage positive relationships between siblings and foster a sense of belonging and companionship among them.