A new study has shown that growing up with at least one girl sibling protects against feeling "lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful" – in fact, affectionate siblings of either sex have positive influences irrespective of their age, gender or difference in the number of years.
However, a sister prevents depression more than a brother because girls are better at listening to problems of others and are more likely to take on a caring role, say the scientists.
The study of 400 families also established that sibling affection plays a bigger influence than parenting, the Daily Express reported.
Lead scientist Laura Padilla-Walker of Brigham Young University was quoted as saying, "Siblings matter more than parents in terms of being kind to others and being generous.
"For parents of younger kids, the message is to encourage sibling affection. Once they get to adolescence, it is going to be a big protective factor."
The study found hostility between brothers and sisters was linked to a greater risk of delinquency – and a tendency to be aggressive in other relationships.
Co-researcher Professor James Harper said, "I would try to eliminate hostile name calling. Siblings have a unique power over each other, yet we have not really considered their influence."