The Importance of Role Models in the Form of Siblings

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 We have all been there: you are sitting excited to watch the new episode of your favourite show. You have been waiting all week to see if the main character has survived the attack of the demigorgans. You press play on Netflix, the theme song comes on and… your sister comes in and grabs the remote control. Siblings can be irritating, even infuriating at times, but there are many benefits to having one. From being great role models and having educational benefits, to even increasing life span, there are lots of reasons why having an older sibling can be beneficial.

Despite what other people say about older siblings, they prove to be effective role models. A study conducted by the University of Calgary and Tel Aviv University found that older siblings act as role models to help younger siblings learn about the world. They suggested that the older sibling’s influence can affect the younger sibling’s ability to express care and sympathy, which we all know are emotions we would want in children. It makes them treat others better and helps them make and maintain friendships. The university checked their hypothesis by examining 452 sibling pairs, both aged between 18-48 months old. They found that those with older siblings demonstrated higher levels of empathy; which does not come as a surprise. It is clear from this study that older siblings are good examples to younger siblings as they can teach their younger siblings how to treat other people well.

Not only can they prove to be effective role models, but they can help the younger sibling improve academically. According to the University of Essex, younger siblings receive a ‘boost’ from older siblings who do well academically. This effect doubles if both siblings attend the same school. Additionally, older siblings are often able to teach younger siblings or help them with their homework, which can improve the younger sibling’s grade – which is amazing! This could help boost their confidence in their own work too – something every parent hopes for. Furthermore, to differentiate from the older sibling, the younger sibling may try to be unique in their own work, therefore having an older sibling can encourage the younger sibling to be an individual. However, some may argue that older siblings can have a negative influence and, in fact, where older siblings are involved in fighting and conflict, the younger sibling is 25% more likely to engage in the same bad behaviour. Although this may sometimes be the case, in most circumstances older siblings have a positive influence over younger siblings. This proves that older siblings can stand as an inspiration to the younger sibling, so they too can achieve educational success.

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Having an older sibling can even have health benefits. According to the BBC, older siblings can increase physical activity in younger siblings in activities such as running, which may be because of co-participation or social support. Additionally, people with older siblings are less likely to develop hay fever or asthma. This is due to the body’s defences being primed to early exposure of germs, which older siblings are high carriers of. Moreover, it is argued that older siblings can have a positive impact on younger siblings’ mental health, making them more resilient, particularly at times of family difficulties. However, not all older siblings treat their siblings nicely and, in fact, some older siblings bully their younger siblings, which may have a negative affect on their mental health. A study of 7000 young people conducted by the universities of Oxford, Bristol and Warwick found that those who experienced bullying from their older sibling at age 12, and who still reported bullying at age 18, were twice as likely to experience depression or anxiety. Nevertheless, provided sibling bullying does not occur, older siblings have a positive mental impact on younger siblings. Therefore, there are many health benefits to having an older sibling, such as better immunity to diseases, increased physical activity and improved mental health.

Finally, older siblings are proven to help younger siblings live longer. A study conducted by PLoS Medicine showed that, on average, those who did not have strong social relationships died seven and a half years earlier than those who did have strong social relationships. This is almost identical to the difference in life expectancy between smokers and non-smokers – mind blowing! This may be because having strong social relationships with family, including older siblings, drives us to take better care of ourselves. Alternatively, it could be that in times of hardship, we turn to those who we care about the most. Either way, this shows that younger siblings who have a strong relationship with older siblings can have a prolonged life.

In conclusion, it is clear that there are many advantages to having an older sibling. They prove to be effective role models and they influence younger siblings to treat other people well. Furthermore, they help younger siblings improve academically and they inspire them to reach educational success. They also give increased health benefits to younger siblings, such as better immunity to hay fever and asthma. Finally, they prolong younger siblings’ lives by motivating them to take better care of themselves. Therefore, despite some negative perceptions of older siblings, it is clear that the negatives are outweighed by the positives and, as a result, older siblings are beneficial. 

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