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Siblings help children get along with others in kindergarten

COLUMBUS, Ohio Children who grow up with one or more siblings get along better with their classmates in kindergarten than do only children, new research shows.

In a national study of more than 20,000 children, teachers rated students who had at least one sibling as better able to form and maintain friendships, get along with people who are different, comfort and help other children, express feelings in a positive way, and show sensitivity to the feelings of others.

"Children without siblings were consistently rated as having poorer social skills," said Douglas Downey, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

"Siblings fight with each other, they have conflicts, but they also figure out how to resolve those conflicts. That probably helps them deal with other children when they go to school."

The results may seem reasonable, but surprisingly, most previous research has shown no social-skills advantage to having brothers and sisters.

"This is one case where what seems like common sense was not supported by the previous research," Downey said. "But we think our study has several advantages over what was done previously."

Downey conducted the study with Dennis Condron, a graduate student at Ohio State. Their results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study involved data from a nationally representative sample of 20,649 children attending kindergarten in 1998-99. The data were collected by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The results showed the value of siblings, even after the researchers took into account a variety of other factors that may be influential in developing social skills, such as the socioeconomic status of the family and whether the children lived with both biological parents.

Downey said it made little difference if the sibli
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Contact: Douglas Downey
Downey.32@sociology.osu.edu
614-292-1352
Ohio State University
21-Jul-2004


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