The more siblings you grew up with, the longer your marriage will last, reports a new study from Ohio State University. For the study, the researchers crunched data on 57,061 adults collected between 1972 and 2012.
“We found that if you had a sibling, for each additional sibling your divorce rate decreased by two percent,” said Douglas Downey, co-author of the study, in an interview for CBSNews.com. Only-children were less likely to marry in general than their peers with siblings, as well as being more at risk for divorce. The benefits of having more siblings seem to level off at seven. The evidence does seem to suggest that having siblings can actually help your marriage!
Single child families are increasingly common in industrialized societies, particularly in Europe. Research into the benefits of child numbers have generally showed that single children fare better at school and economically later in life. The Ohio State study presents some of the first positive statistics for growing up with many siblings.
Why might experiencing the ups and downs of a large family help you maintain a marriage later in life?
“One of the ideas is that growing up with siblings and having lots of sibling interaction develops the kind of social skills that are potentially useful for maintaining a stable marriage later on in adulthood,” said Downey.
These skills include sharing, impulse control, creating alliances to weather adversity, and comfort with sharing a household.
At the same time, growing up in abusive or otherwise unhealthy sibling environments can negatively effect a person’s ability to form health relationships in the future. Anger and manipulation, for example, are often learned from childhood interactions. Situations in which siblings bullied or overpowered each other can translate into disordered power relationships and excessive anger later in life. The study at OSU has only preliminarily shown a link between number of siblings and risk of divorce, and does not delve into other subtleties of family relationships. Quality of sibling relationships, as well as other factors such as birth order and age, will be a fascinating subject for future research.
The study will be presented at the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York City on Aug. 13th.
If you are looking for ways to help your marriage that aren’t dependent choices your parents made, online relationship counseling is a new and innovative way to reach your marriage goals!