The Value of Siblings, in Peace and Conflict

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The number of kids in American families, as throughout the world, has declined over the last decades. Reasons for less kids vary; finances, careers or, even, for the sake of the child/children already born. Such a concern is commonly voiced as, “if we have more children it will take away from the son/daughter we already have. We won’t be able to invest as much time, attention etc. That’s just not fair.” Experience and studies suggest, however, that siblings enrich rather than detract from your child’s life.

What is the average number of kids per family in the US? Gallup Research Survey in 2013 proved worse than a living reality according to Pew Research statistics in 2014.  According to the former, Americans say that 2.6 children is the “ideal” family.  Pew Research Center found that women on average have 1.9 children – a number below the ‘replacement rate’ of a population, at 2.1 children.

Again, while the reasons vary greatly for less children, the intention here is to consider the last concern: more children detract from living ones.

Coming from a large family myself, and having many friends with siblings, personal experience reveals otherwise.  Perhaps I may have not received as much “parental attention” as I would have as a single child, or with a sibling, but I can never recall the lack thereof. Whenever in need, I feel as if I am my parent’s only child. In fact, as siblings we may have even taken the brunt from my parents of familial discipline and encouragement  that every child needs. Siblings tend to affirm, entertain and challenge each other in different ways. With endless examples of good behavior, bad behavior, and the consequences of each, we learned what “hot stoves” not to touch without necessarily burning ourselves.  Sharing was not so much a prized rarity, but a daily necessity; yet, generosity was always recognized. Learning, moreover, how to work and play alongside different personalities was also key. It was the best preparation and formation for school and the workforce I could ever imagine.

As an adult, I am commonly asked if I felt so many siblings detracted from my childhood? What floods my mind is how much they enriched it, taught me, and still do.

At this point, some may be thinking, ‘well isn’t that a pretty, idealistic little picture to paint,’ but for the majority, that’s just not possible. Kids argue endlessly, always at odds. Well, yes. That’s all part of the packet. Looking at statistics even this conflictual element lends to the value of sibling. The paper, Positive Indicators of Sibling Relationship Quality: Psychometric Analyses of The Sibling Inventory of Behavior (SIB), concluded after thorough analysis: “Children need to be exposed to some degree of conflict in order to learn effective conflict resolution strategies and it appears that when conflict between siblings is of a moderate level and occurs in the context of a warm and close sibling relationship, there are clear advantages for children.”  Findings show that the quality of siblings’ relationships indicate social competence and psychological well-being, stimulating an ability to maintain peer relationships and emotional maturity. The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development says, along similar lines, “Sibling relations provide an important context for the development of children’s understanding of their social, emotional, moral and cognitive worlds.”

In short, if the reason for not having more children is because it might detract from your living kids, think twice. If the first or second child is a gift, so too will a third, or a fourth. My Dad said he feared having a second because he would never be able to love it like the first. Once he had a second, he realized love is not something divisible, but multiplies. The heart grows with every new child; it’s not a pie in which each gets a piece. For siblings it is the same. Each brother and sister is a gift, a new untapped relationship of heated debates, shared dreams, hot tears and uncontrollable laughs. With more children, you are giving to your kids, not taking away.

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