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Are you a teenager and have a good relationship with your sibling? Then you may be better protected from mental illness.

American researchers have studied a little more than 200 teenagers, their siblings and parents in the United States for three years.

Earlier studies have shown that there is a risk that children who have been exposed to destructive conflicts between their parents more often have mental illness in their later life.

In this study, the researchers saw that a strong sibling relationship during difficult protected them against mental illness in their own life.

Adolescents who witnessed conflict between their parents had greater distressed responses to conflicts a year later, and greater distressed responses, in turn, predicted mental health problems in the teens in the subsequent year, the study found.

However, teens who had good bonds with their siblings were protected from experiencing these distressed responses when they witnessed their parents’ conflict, and ultimately were protected from subsequent mental health problems. These protective effects were similar for siblings of different ages and combinations of genders.

“Relationships with siblings protected teens whether we defined a good bond as one that included warmth and problem-solving skills or one that had low levels of destructive conflict or disengagement,”

“Strengthening sibling relationships may not only directly foster children’s psychological adjustment, but also offer new approaches to counteracting the risks associated with experiencing hostility and unresolved conflicts between parents.”

– Meredith Martin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who co-authored the study.

However, many factors are at play and more studies are needed to investigate the apparent relationship and the study’s authors caution that because the families were mostly White and middle class, the findings should not be generalized to families of other races and socioeconomic statuses.


Patrick T. Davies, Children’s Vulnerability to Interparental Conflict: The Protective Role of Sibling Relationship Quality, June 2018, Child Development. DOI: 10.1111 / cdev.13078.