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Having More Siblings Might Lower Your Divorce Risk

Past experience with family dynamics may help you navigate marriage, study authors theorize

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The more brothers and sisters you have, the less likely you are to get divorced, a new study contends.

Each sibling that a person has -- up to seven -- reduces the likelihood of divorce by 2 percent. The findings come from an analysis of data collected from about 57,000 people in the United States between 1972 and 2012.

Although having more than seven siblings provided no additional protection, it didn't hurt either, according to the study, which is scheduled to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York City.

The Ohio State University researchers said one of the most surprising findings was that there wasn't much difference between being an only child and having one or two siblings.

"We expected that if you had any siblings at all, that would give you the experience with personal relationships that would help you in marriage," study co-author and assistant professor of psychology Donna Bobbitt-Zeher said in an association news release.

"But we found that the real story appears to be how family dynamics change incrementally with the addition of each sibling," she said. "Having more siblings means more experience dealing with others, and that seems to provide additional help in dealing with a marriage relationship as an adult."

Although the study found a link between having more siblings and lower odds of divorce, it didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Because it was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The positive effects of having more brothers and sisters were seen among all generations included in the study. The research didn't examine why having more siblings reduces the risk of divorce, but there are many possible reasons, according to study co-author Doug Downey.

"Growing up in a family with siblings, you develop a set of skills for negotiating both negative and positive interactions," said Downey, a professor of sociology. "You have to consider other people's points of view and learn how to talk through problems. The more siblings you have, the more opportunities you have to practice those skills. That can be a good foundation for adult relationships, including marriage."

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