Teenagers’ Mental Health Suffers When They Have More Siblings

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

The more children that families have, the worse kids’ mental health gets. A new study has found that teenagers from larger families tend to have poorer mental health compared to those with fewer siblings.

It’s a surprising discovery that spans across two vastly different countries: the United States and China. This research, conducted by sociologists from The Ohio State University (OSU), delved into the complex relationship between sibling count and mental well-being.

“Our results couldn’t have been easily predicted before we did the study,” says study lead author Doug Downey, professor of sociology at OSU, in a university release. “Other studies have shown that having more siblings is associated with some positive effects, so our results were not a given.”

Their research involved extensive analysis of over 9,400 Chinese and 9,100 American 8th-graders. The average Chinese youth has about 0.7 fewer siblings than their American counterparts, likely influenced by China’s One Child Policy.

The study’s methodology included asking students (average age of 14) various questions about their mental health. These questions, though different in each country, led to some intriguing insights. For instance, in China, teens without siblings showed the best mental health, while in the U.S., those with none or one sibling fared similarly well. However, the presence of half and full siblings displayed a link to poorer mental health in the U.S., especially when siblings were close in age or older. One explanation for these findings is the “resource dilution” theory.

“If you think of parental resources like a pie, one child means that they get all the pie — all the attention and resources of the parents,” notes Downey. “But when you add more siblings, each child gets fewer resources and attention from the parents, and that may have an impact on their mental health.”

While these findings predominantly highlight the negative impacts of having more siblings, Downey notes that sibling quality wasn’t a factor in this study. High-quality sibling relationships could potentially offer positive effects on mental health. Moreover, other research finds that having more siblings can improve social skills in young children and decrease the likelihood of divorce in adults.

Source: StudyFinds

Help us reach the next generation of families

Back to Top

[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on Crosswalk.com and Religiontoday.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

  • Support Our Mission

    HomeWord is non-profit, donor supported ministry. If you would like to partner with HomeWord in our effort to help more parents and families you can make a donation. Your investment will allow us to expand this ministry by offering more resources to families and churches in need.

  • Contact Information

    • HomeWord
      PO Box 1600
      San Juan Capistrano, CA

    • Send us an email

    • 800-397-9725
      (M-F: 8:30am-5pm PST)