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Sister Lovers: Does Having a Sister Make a World of Difference?

Sister Lovers: Does Having a Sister Make a World of Difference?

I have two sisters, and I would like to think that beyond the hair pulling, the compulsory Barbie pageants and the ritualized torment, I gained some sort of wisdom and compassion from being the youngest, and only, boy in the family. My sisters love and respect me (although this wasn’t always the case) and they, when not moved to harass me themselves, were always there during childhood to stick up for me. For this, I have always felt I had a slight advantage in dealing with, and relating to, the opposite sex. I figured having two sisters had groomed me to be an ideal boyfriend/mate.

Now comes a psychological study from the UK (the actual study was concluded last year – it takes me a little time to get around to all of this data) that attests to the fact that people (whether they be male or female) who have sisters are happier, more optimistic, less stressed, and better at coping with life’s problems. Key researcher on the study, Tony Cassidy, of the University of Ulster, said: “Our explanation for it is that the presence of girls opens up channels of communication and it becomes a much more expressive situation and that’s positive.” Psychologists tested the emotional well being of 571 people aged 17 to 25. Some had only sisters or brothers, some had both and others were only children. Apparently sisters appear to encourage more open communication and cohesion in families (even families that are impacted by divorce). On the contrary, brothers (as much as I hate to report this) seem to do the opposite, as the lowest scores in the study were among boys who only had brothers, and no sisters. Emotional expression, according to Cassidy, is fundamental to good psychological health and having sisters promotes this in families.

So the conclusion being that girls (and then women) are more likely than boys (and then men) to speak openly, and create a vital dialogue, about their emotions. Is this just another chapter of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, or does this reveal a qualitative difference in male relationships compared to female relationships? It all feels a bit cliché to me, and I have little desire in perpetuating gender stereotypes. However, the data is compelling (if not wholly evident) and does deserve some consideration, if not some discussion.

For those of you with sisters, brothers, or none of the above, I am sure these claims either ring incredibly true, or feel somewhat trite and obvious. Is it about the way we communicate, rather than what we communicate? Aren’t their overlooked benefits to being a brother among brothers? Are sisters the key to our collective emotional survival and the element that makes us all a bit more human and happy, or is it all relative depending upon family dynamics and interpersonal relationships? Did having a sister(s) save, or at least, change your life?

Read more: Family, Love, Parenting at the Crossroads, Sex, , , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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6:00AM PST on Nov 16, 2010

Thanks..... S2 my little brother too ..=)

10:51AM PST on Nov 12, 2010

I have three girls and they are each others best friends. Love it!

9:32AM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

These are two beautiful girls in the above picture. I have only a sister and would not know what it is like to be with out one.

6:11AM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

Cool I love my sister more now too.

12:41AM PDT on Oct 31, 2010


9:04PM PDT on Oct 30, 2010

I was an only child also :-( I would have loved to have a sibling, brother or sister. Thanx

7:05PM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

My sister is the oldest of five, and I am the youngest with three brothers between us. My sister was an adult when I was born, but don't get the wrong impression. My late Mom was our only mother--and a wonderful one at that.

While age differences prevented us from the closeness of siblings who share the experiences of growing up together, my relationships with my late brothers were fine--adequate. However. my sister and I are as different as night and day. Her attitude is rather negative as she tries to exercise control over me and is never satisfied with anything I do. Fortunately, we live several hundred miles apart.

I do believe we love each other, but there does not seem any way that she will accept who I am. Finally, family members and friends who know the situation have convinced me that I should not feel guilty about the state of our relationship or obligated to satisfying her commands.

1:49PM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Awh I love my sister even more now :)

9:15AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

well, i wouldn't have said so much... I have a sister and we are good frends, I can count on her and she can count on me and so on... besides all the fight and hair pulling when we were kids I remember great moments when we would help each other to hide something broken, some bad marks from school etc from my parents or when we planed some kind of joke...
the only pitty is... we cannot exchange clothes, she is like half of me... :)

6:09AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Thanks for the info.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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