August 3rd, 2010
04:11 PM ET

Call your sister - Siblings counter depression

Do you have a sister who helps you through your problems?

If so, you may relate to new research showing that siblings, and especially sisters, improve mental health among adolescents.

A study led by Laura Padilla-Walker, professor at Brigham Young University, found that sisters are more protective against depression than brothers. It's not that brothers increase depression - but their presence doesn't seem to protect against depression as much, according to the results of the study.

This may be because girls talk more than boys, especially when it comes to emotions, making sisters better confidantes than brothers, she said.

Researchers did find a correlation between affection between siblings in general and the likelihood of depression, she said. Interestingly, the age difference between siblings did not matter, nor did birth order.

The study looked 10 to 14-year-olds from 395 different families, all of which had more than one child.

"Even if you’re fighting, as long as you’ve got affection in the relationship, that protects against delinquency, protects against depression, and the strongest finding was that it promotes generosity and kindness toward others twice as strong as parenting did," she said.

Having siblings isn't always a good thing, however. Hostility among siblings is associated with greater delinquency, Padilla-Walker said. But a little fighting is normal, and can foster good relationships.

"Probably the fact that they do fight and make up, that teaches people how to self-regulate and how to deal with difficult situations," she said.

The research is part of a larger initiative called the Flourishing Families Project, which is looking at the dynamics of nearly 700 families through questionnaires and video tapes.

The study will appear in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Fredrick

    Sure its generally too. Honestly my sister increases my depression. IM 28 and have lived on my own for 10 years.. well. 8 years now. 2 years ago she moved in to "save money". I love her but i really didnt want this. I was eventually guilted into it by the rest of my family and guess what. These 2 years have been horrible. Im actually looking to go back to school or find a new job out of the city if for nothing else an excuse I wont have to feel bad about. >< So no.. My sister makes me feel worse.

    August 3, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Waterfalls

      Personally, I would tell her things aren't working out and set a time limit (3 months?) for her to move out, and stick to it. You have every right to your own life and happiness, and if your family says anything, offer to "let" them take her in.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • Mary


      I can relate to you. I have two sisters and we all actually suffer from depression, so we're not always helpful to each other. I'm diagnosed bipolar 2 and my older sister is schizo-effective with psychotic episodes. My younger sister has clinical depression. We were all diagnosed in our adulthood and we feed off of each other's blue moods. If your sister suffers from any type of mental disorder this might not be the best scenario for you to be living together.

      August 4, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
  2. Fredrick

    Also brenda.. where did they even mention race? What if theirs a mixed family you want them to put up a sign saying "mixed child not fully black?" Who gives a crap?

    August 3, 2010 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      Actually I agree with Brenda. They do this all the time in the media. It may not matter to you because you are probably not mixed. It is insulting to those of us who are. Look at what they say in reference to our president. The first black man! BULLCRAP. Acknowledge that he is biracial instead of following an old antiquated and INACCURATE one drop LIE.

      August 3, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
    • knublegs

      I think that Brenda's comment is way out of the blue for what the story is pertaining to. However, I do have to agree with what she said. The media is unfair constantly saying that Obama is "the first black president". Truly stated, he is actually mixed. Why is no credit being given for the white side of his family? His white grandmother is actually the one who raised him. That seems completely unfair to not give due credit for being MIXED. That actually hits a chord with me because my nephew is mixed. He is beautiful and SO smart. However, do not call him ONLY black. Plain and simple- he's not all black. That is completely racist to not give credit to the white side of the family, because he is just as much white as he is black. He's "blite".

      August 4, 2010 at 09:29 | Report abuse |
  3. devon

    I am the oldest of four girls….and wow, they drove me crazy when we were younger but now we get along great and are always planning to do things together (with our kids and sometimes not with our kids). Two of the four live in different states so we don’t get to see each other as often as we like, but we are on Facebook and text often.

    August 3, 2010 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fuyuko

    I don't know about this one. I have 5 sisters and a brother, and sisters and I only really get along with 1 sister.

    August 3, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kat

    What a rude comment... Genetics is a funny thing. I knew a girl in high school who had red hair, light skin and freckles like her Irish mother. Her other 4 siblings were dark-skinned, black hair and brown eyed like their Hispanic father. She always got tired of being called adopted when she was out with the family without her mother, but that was how the genetics played out. BTW, y does it matter anyway? Pointless comment...

    August 3, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dyala

    I have 8 sisters and i get along with all.We have a lot of fun.I love my sisters !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 3, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. scroo yoo

    my family is actually one of the causes of my depression

    August 3, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jasmaine

    Those race comments are idiotic and not the point of the article. And how ASSUMING of Brenda and that other guy to assume that kid is biracial. (coming from a black girl who looks biracial) Just shut up and read the story. : |

    August 3, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Quita

      Yah right Jasmaine! Look, I'm black Ill be the first to admit that Obama is half white. This coutnry has no balls to admit there are MILLIONS of halfsies here. Lots of them. My sis has a white man and three beautiful children with him and she would never call them black. Jasmaine u are full black. Get over yourselves.

      August 4, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
  9. Chris

    What is the point of your comment? I'm confused as to 1) why this matters, and 2) what kind of expertise you have to make these assumptions?

    August 3, 2010 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jennifer

    I completely disagree. I am 38, grew up in the middle of 2 sisters. We didn't get along growing up and almost never talk now. We all suffer depression issues, but never talk to each other, so, there is no help there! We were never close growing up and I see no closeness in our future. This study is skewed!

    August 3, 2010 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      Agreed. I've three sisters that I'd do well never to see again, if I'm lucky. If depression is involved (and maybe it is slightly), it was *caused* by those lunatics and having to live with them for as long as I had to.

      August 4, 2010 at 01:47 | Report abuse |
  11. Shinea

    This is a stock photo. They are probably not even related.

    August 3, 2010 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ituri

    As to the title... not with *my* sisters.

    August 4, 2010 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Elizabeth

    i am an only child.
    What am I supposed to do?

    August 4, 2010 at 04:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dorothy

      What are you supposed to do? Consider yourself lucky!!

      August 4, 2010 at 07:49 | Report abuse |
  14. Chuck

    Rude and uninformed. Like the other poster said, the African gene is varied. There are Africans with a variety of features. And on the comment of "pawing of mixed kids as Black"....you obviously do not realize the racist laws of America. Specifically the "One Drop Rule". In an attempt to keep the white race pure, America has a law that states: "One drop of Black blood categorizes you as Black." Rarely spoken of...but on the books.

    August 4, 2010 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Natalie Rosen

    What if you do not HAVE a sister? Do close cousins count?

    August 4, 2010 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mare

    Cousins keep me sane!

    August 4, 2010 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Abby

    That's pretty awful! My "full" sisters and I look absolutely nothing alike. This was a great article and I am happy to have my sisters whenever I need them.

    August 4, 2010 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Kim

    Sisters...my sister had an 8 month affair with my husband (divorced now). Once I found out she dumped him and moved on to her next victim. I beleive in a healthy family sisters can be very comforting, caring and loving. In my case I have a narcisisst sister who will do anything to get what she wants..no matter who it hurts.

    August 4, 2010 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. knublegs

    I think that Brenda's comment is way out of the blue for what the story is pertaining to. However, I do have to agree with what she said. The media is unfair constantly saying that Obama is "the first black president". Truly stated, he is actually mixed. Why is no credit being given for the white side of his family? His white grandmother is actually the one who raised him. That seems completely unfair to not give due credit for being MIXED. That actually hits a chord with me because my nephew is mixed. He is beautiful and SO smart. However, do not call him ONLY black. Plain and simple- he's not all black. That is completely racist to not give credit to the white side of the family, because he is just as much white as he is black. He's "blite".

    August 4, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Kesh


    What do your comments have to do with the article or picture??? I am the oldest of four and the darkest. My parents and siblings are all lighter than the children in the picture. People are always asking my siblings what are they mixed with. My maternal grandmother is very dark and beautiful. I guess that's where my complexion comes from. When people of African descent have offspring, complexions vary. So many beautiful colors!
    Thank God for my sisters AND brother!

    BTW, Blacks didn't come up with the one drop rule! Even the child of the master and slave remained a slave and Black!

    August 4, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Quita

      KESH, then why are you supporting it by being an ignorant fool? Look at the kids hair and features. Dead giveaway. Moron.

      August 4, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
  21. copernicus

    The main cause of chronic depression is brain injuries. I don't know why doctors, especially psychologists and psychiatrists, don't know this and if they do why they are not jumping up and down and screaming to everyone don't get a brain injury or you will be depressed the rest of your life. It is absolutely unethical for them not to be screaming this. Instead they turn their back on football players, boxers, skateboarders, cyclists, MMA fighters and pretend that somehow these people can participate in these sports and not get a brain injury if they don't wear helmets and even then they will probably still get a brain injury.

    August 4, 2010 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Waterfalls

      Where have you read brain injury is one of the "main causes" of depression? The "main causes" include genetic predisposition, high levels of stress as a baby/child, sleep disorders, nutritional issues (deficiencies, allergies)... brain injury is only one possible "cause."

      August 4, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • knublegs

      That is one of the most ignorant and stupid things I have ever read. I have a psychology degree, and in no way are brain injuries the leading cause of chronic depression. It deals with a chemical imbalance, not from being knocked in the head.

      August 4, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
  22. Mary Beth

    I am one of four girls in my family. My baby sister is my best friend in the whole world!! Yes, even before my man. We are there for each other no matter WHAT and I would be a hot mess without her! I love my two older sisters as well, but with Emily?...let's just say there is a bit of unspoken jealousy. I also have three brothers who I ADORE! I dunno...I always laugh my buns off whenever I talk to my bro's too. It's a gift from my parents love, more so the older we all get, to have so many diverse and loving and yeah, pain in the ass sometime sibs!

    August 4, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Tony

    I'm getting depressed reading some of these comments. It's discouraging that there seem to be some rigid views about who can or cannot be full siblings based on appearance, what people *should* look like. Barack Obama, who chose to identify himself as "black" on a recent census form, has many half-siblings and so does Bill Clinton. I guess it's One potentially encouraging point is that in 2010 we can read an article that talks about sisters as prototypical siblings (rather than focusing first on brothers). The children in the picture could easily be full siblings, but isn't it offensive to point out the "half"ness of their siblinghood? As if it were only half as good (leaving aside for the moment any possibly not-so-good dimensions)...

    August 4, 2010 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      I disagree. There is not ENOUGH dialogue about mixed people being unmentioned. This is only an American thing by the way. Here in Canada we don't have as many hangups as you Americans do. Its quite sad.

      August 4, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  24. Deven

    "This may be because girls talk more than boys, especially when it comes to emotions, making sisters better confidantes than brothers, she said" What an INTENSE generalization. I wonder how it would have been worded if a guy had written the article. ALmost every article I read on CNN is a generalization against men and pro women. Perhaps most men don't talk that much in our society because such generalizations when read, are enforcing the paradigm in which we live. A guy who talks "a lot" by the generalization given is automatically defaults to and allusion of "feminine" if one follows such an equation. Most males in our society aren't livng their natural internal rhythm. Most are instead living in constant reaction to what the female wants of her man. Most men live in reaction to "what is not female" as opposed to "what is male"...Just saying. Most young girls are allowed freedom of expression whereas most young boys reach an age where they are told to dry the tears and "be men"....what is THAT supposed to mean??? WIth love, Mom & Dad

    August 4, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Christine

    Chuck: YOU IGNORAMUS! By even mentioning the 'one drop rule' you yourself are perpetuating a LIE! The one drop rule is not accurate in any sense whatsoever. I am MIXED with tan skin and curly hair. Many blacks in America CLAIM to be mixed but they are NOT. It is a proven historical fact that most blacks in this country came from just a handful of related tribes. That is why they all have the same texture of hair, wide noses and larger lips. Are you really this stupid? I bet you think OBAMA is black. He came out of a WHITE MOTHER so he is half freakin white. The media is racist and stupid and call him the first black president because I PROMISE YOU he is the closest this country will ever come to a brown president. HALF BLACK is already too much for most politicians because they hate him so much. Wake up and get a clue.

    August 4, 2010 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Jeff

    While I agree with you completely that Brenda's comment is rude and uninformed, there is no law (at least not one that is a federal statute, and probably not any at the state levels either) that imposes a "one-drop" rule. That rule is an unofficial custom created by people in order to categorize themselves or others. People are free to indentify with whichever race they wish to on the census. Race, however, is an arbitrary illusion that is created by humans to distinguish themselves by skin color and certain other physical characterisitcs that are prevalent in the genetic codes that replicate them.

    August 4, 2010 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jbaum

    This article is true. When ever I get blue, I call my family. Whether it's one of my 2 sisters, one of my 4 brothers or my mom or dad. But, they have a thing for me called unconditional love. And really it's the unconditional love that helps beat depression. Same for if you get a dog. IT's proven that the companionship can help deter depression.
    As for the racial comment – why is everything about race? the article didn't mention race, it just had a picture of two beautiful children working together. Possibly a girl help the boy with homework. Which was metioned in the article so why not use a picture that REFLECTS what was in the article. Who cares what colour they are. It doesn't take away from what is written in the article. Too many poeple focus on race, that they actually miss what was in the articles, and that is VERY evident from the comments on all message boards you read, not just this one. It's sad. People want racism to stop but if it did, people wouldn't have that to complain about. People who want it to stop or say they do are no better when they throw pointless comments like that into the mix. That stirs up racism and makes people more divided.

    August 4, 2010 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Seriously?

    @ Brenda – you do realize that you do not have to be mixed in order to have the grade of hair as the little girl has in the picture? my niece's hair is just like that and both of her parents are black. most of the people i know (myself included) have different textures of hair and there is no mixing in our immediate family. comments like yours are full of ignorance.

    @ Christine -the one drop rule may be ludicrous, but it was a real assessment of race nonetheless. without the rule there would have been no reason for fair skinned black people to try and "pass". i am curious to know where you get your information about black people claiming to be mixed? what idiot does this? it serves no purpose whatsoever. oh and fyi all black people do not all have the same hair texture, full lips, or wide noses. honestly at this point all african slaves could have been from the same tribe, but we would never know it due to all the mixing of genes starting with master in the slave quarters. as far as our president is concerned you are correct he is only half black. we are well aware of this. however, he obviously identifies strongly with his black heritage because he chose a strong, beautiful chocolate sister to stand at his side. apparently he has no issue with being considered the first black president so why should you? just as halle berry had no issue with being the first black woman to win an oscar for lead actress. i am under the assumption that you are half black as well since you were so quick to jump on the one drop reference. from your comment it is clear that you have no interest in identifying with that side and that's sad. self loathing isn't a good look on anyone.

    August 4, 2010 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • HER

      Drop dead niglet.

      August 16, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse |
  29. Anna

    Eh I don't find it true all that much. I'm the youngest of 3. I'm also the only girl. My brothers never talked to me about stuff and I never talked to them. Besides they were one of the main causes of my grief growing up. They'll do something incredibly stupid, then pin it on my. My 2nd brother stole from me and only I (stress I) get into trouble for stealing it back.

    I call my mom every day not because I'm depressed but to let her know that I'm still a part of the family despite being states away. And my mom calls my gran every night just to say "goodnight" to each other or to retell my stories about my life (our calls are back-to-back and last roughly 1 hr to 1.5 hrs). I'm very extreme in my emotions to which I keep them level and almost non-existant mostly due to fear that I'm going to do something incredibly stupid if someone angers me.

    August 4, 2010 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. pcw

    Your comment is pathetic. I'm Black, my kids are Black, and our natural hair is just like that child in the picture. You must not get out much around other people.

    August 4, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. jmd

    My sister and I are three years apart, there were times when we were growing up that we were not very close, and have had our misunderstandings as adults, but we have developed a very supportive relationship. Both of us have suffered with moderate depression at different times in our lives and we have found this common ground to be a source of comfort and understanding. We are quite different, but have a mutual respect for each other that tempers our differences. I am thankful to have a sister and thankful for the relationship we have developed.

    August 4, 2010 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Anuradha Pandey

    Thank God I was raised in a large family, I had two elder sisters and two younger. It was fun being together in the same school as well. We were more like friends and by the grace of God the bond is still very strong. Thanks to international calls we are always for each other to share happy moments and sad ones too.

    August 5, 2010 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Zaira

    Awesome article! thanks for this great article.

    August 11, 2010 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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