Although teenagers have little control over how many siblings they have, recent study indicates that this may have an impact on their mental health.
More than 18,500 teenagers from China and the United States participated in the study, which found that teens from larger households often had lower mental health than those from smaller families.
Researchers from Ohio State University discovered that the most mentally healthy kids and teenagers in the country were unmarried or had only one sibling. Furthermore, being close in age to a sibling or having older siblings had the worst impact on wellbeing. Siblings born within a year of one another were associated with the largest negative effects on mental health.
Teens without siblings had the best mental health in China, where from 1980 to 2016, the majority of homes were only allowed to have one kid. 34% of Chinese youngsters are siblingless as a result of that strategy. Merely 12.6% of Americans are single children.
Why then would having more siblings be detrimental to one’s mental health? The explanation of resource dilution was cited by researchers.
Lead author of the study and Ohio State sociology professor Doug Downey said, “If you think of parental resources like a pie, one child means that they get all the pie – all the attention and resources of the parents,” “But when you add more siblings, each child gets fewer resources and attention from the parents, and that may have an impact on their mental health.”
This could also be the reason why mentally healthier siblings are closer in age. Similar-aged siblings vie with each other for the same kinds of parental resources.
Larger and smaller families might also differ in other ways that could have an impact on mental health. In both China and the United States, for example, children with the greatest financial advantages had the best mental health results, according to the study. It was one-child families in China, whereas it was families with one or two children in the United States.
Siblings who are close in age may also have worse mental health due to this. Siblings of similar ages compete with one another for the same resources from their parents.
It’s also possible that smaller and larger families differ in other ways that could affect mental health. For instance, the study found that children with the best mental health outcomes were those who benefited from the largest financial advantages in both China and the United States. This was a reference to Chinese homes with one child and American families with one or two children.
In general, experts agree that further study is necessary to ascertain the effect of siblings on mental health, particularly in light of the United States’ continually falling birth rates and the longer-term trend toward smaller households. According to the Pew Research Center, 18% of American women in 2014 had only one child by the end of their reproductive years, up from 10% in 1976.
“Understanding the consequences of growing up with fewer or no brothers and sisters is an increasingly important social issue,” Downey stated.