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?