Jen Juneau
November 11, 2015 11:40 am

There are lots of studies out there that cover how having at least one sibling affects us. For example, we know that birth order sometimes affects our personalities (though maybe not as much as we used to think) and can also have an impact on our health. Siblings can drive us crazy, but they can also teach us a ton of valuable lessons without even knowing it. And now, a new study suggests that if you have at least one sibling of the opposite sex, you may even have a leg up in relationship confidence. Score!

According to the results of the study, which were published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, “Youth with same-sex siblings showed no change in their perceived romantic competence, but those with opposite-sex siblings exhibited increases in romantic competence over time.”

To draw their conclusions, Pennsylvania State University researchers studied 373 first- and second-born siblings aged 12 to 20 years who were no more than four years apart in age. The researchers conducted annual interviews with the siblings over the course of five years and analyzed the resulting data from questions they asked related to the subjects’ romantic competence, such as how attractive they felt others perceived them and how fun and interesting they thought they’d be considered on a first date.

Interestingly, at age 12, the study’s subjects were more self-professedly confident in a romantic sense when they had at least one same-sex sibling. But by age 20, the reverse was true. And furthermore, opposite-sex siblings who have a close, open relationship with each other seem to benefit most of all. According to The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of the study, “Perceived romantic competence was greater in mixed-sex siblings who shared their feelings and secrets with one another.”

It’s worth noting that the study was made up of mostly heterosexual teenagers, so the results may or may not be a reliable indicator across the board for people of all sexualities who have an opposite-sex sibling. But for those who do have a heterosexual orientation, the results seem to make a good deal of sense. Opposite-sex siblings give us a lifelong chance to learn how to interact with someone whom society is trying to breed as much different from ourselves, even if they inherently aren’t. And the more years that pass while we get to know that person, the more feedback we get from that opposite-sex peer, which makes us a little more confident when talking to future opposite-sex peers – even if the circumstances surrounding such discussions and confidence are obviously much different.

Shout out to my brother, whom I guess I should be thanking as I simultaneously apologize for all those times I forced him to play Girl Talk. Thanks, brother! And also, you’re welcome.

(Image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

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