Sibling rivalry could take on a whole new meaning. A study led by Dr. Robert Waldinger, director of the Study of Adult Development at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, found that poor sibling relationships in childhood may be a predictor of major depression in adulthood.
Getting along with siblings is a significant challenge of growing up. Brothers and sisters help us learn how to negotiote with others, work in a group, and play together. Of course, we also have some of our worst conflicts and difficult experiences with our siblings. Sibling rivalry can last into adulthood for some. The tumultuous relationship causes some adults to cut ties from their brothers or sisters entirely. We choose our friends, but we are born into our family. Sometimes people that are genetically related have such different personalities they just don’t – and won’t – ever get along.
The study, which took place over the course of 68 years, focused on 229 men who were followed between the ages of 20 through 50 and beyond. It is one of the longest longitudinal studies of adult psychosocial development in history. The researchers conducted interviews with the participants and their parents at the beginning of the study, and continued with follow-up interviews and questionnaires with the participants. The data obtained evaluated the quality of relationships with siblings, the quality of parenting received during childhood, family history of depression. Additionally the study looked at whether by age 50 the participants had any bouts of depression, alcoholism, or if they used mood-altering drugs such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills and stimulants.
Turns out that having a bad relationship with a sibling did in fact predict depression and drug use in adulthood. Furthermore a bad relationship with Mom or Dad was not a predictor of either drug use or depression, if family history and poor sibling relationships were taken into account. The researchers concluded that more depression related research needs to be done focusing on the relationship between siblings.