Growing up with at least one girl in the family protects against feeling ‘lonely, unloved, guilty, selfconscious and fearful,’ according to new research.
Affectionate siblings of either sex have positive influences on each other no matter their age, gender or how many years they are apart.
Loving brothers and sisters promote kindness and generosity and help guard against delinquency.
However, a sister prevents depression more than a brother because girls are better at talking about problems or are more likely to take on a care-giver role.
‘Siblings matter even more than parents do in terms of promoting being kind to others and being generous,’ said Dr Laura Padilla-Walker of Brigham Young University in Utah.
Daughters tie loved ones closer together and encourage them to communicate their emotions more effectively, the researchers said.
Dr Padilla-Walker and colleagues looked at more than 395 families which had more than one child, at least one of whom was aged between ten and 14.
The researchers gathered information about each family in 2007 and followed up with them a year later to establish with statistical analysis that having a sister offered remarkable emotional benefit.
It didn’t matter whether the sister was younger or older, or how far apart the siblings were age-wise.
Even fighting can have fringe benefits, said Dr Padilla-Walker. Fights give children a chance to learn how to make up and to regain control of their emotions, skills that come in handy later in life.
‘An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict,’ she added. In fact, loving siblings fostered charitable attitudes more than loving parents did.
The relationship between sibling affection and good deeds was twice as strong as that between parents and good deeds.