Quality of Sibling Relationships Impacts Depression, Risky Behaviors

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Poor relationships between siblings during one’s teen years may affect one’s likelihood to have depression or engage in risky behaviors later on, based on a study involving Mexican-American teens.

Sarah Killoren, PhD, of the University of Missouri, and colleagues examined data from a multi-year study of 246 families of Mexican descent living in the U.S. They measured the relationship qualities in pairs of siblings, who were between 12 and 15 years of age at the study’s beginning. The researchers wanted to see how the relationship quality between siblings in adolescence correlated to depressive symptoms, risky behaviors and sexual risk behaviors between five and eight years later.

The researchers examined how siblings’ relationship qualities in adolescence were related to each sibling’s depressive symptoms, risky behaviors and sexual risk behaviors five and eight years later.

Siblings with positive relationships showed fewer risky behaviors, whereas siblings with negative relationships engaged in more risky behaviors, the researchers reported.

Older siblings who had positive relationships with their younger siblings had the fewest depressive symptoms and engaged in the lowest levels of risky behaviors. But, younger siblings who had a negative relationship with an older, opposite-sex sibling had increased sexual risk behaviors.

“Individuals learn how to interact with others based on the relationships they have with their siblings,” Killoren said in a statement. “Siblings who are hostile and negative with one another will use that interaction style with their peers. Most peers won’t respond well to hostility and negativity so these youth may be more likely to hang out with a deviant peer group and, in turn, engage in risky behaviors.”

Quality of Sibling Relationships Impacts Depression, Risky Behaviors
Siblings with positive relationships showed fewer risky behaviors, whereas siblings with negative relationships engaged in more risky behaviors.

Sibling relationship quality during the teen years may affect later depressive symptoms and involvement in risky behaviors, according to a new University of Missouri (MU) study involving teens of Mexican origin.

Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the U.S., and most are of Mexican origin. The Latino culture, more than others, places a high value on the family unit; yet, there has been minimal research on the dynamics of Latino family relationships and how those dynamics affect children's development.

The researchers used in-home interview data from a multi-year study of 246 Mexican-origin families living in the U.S. They assessed the relationship qualities of pairs of siblings, who were about 12 to 15 years of age at the beginning of the study.

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