If you grew up tormented by a house full of brothers and sisters, your suffering might not have been in vain.
Sociologists at Ohio State University on Tuesday unveiled the results of a study that found that the more siblings you have, the less likely you are to get divorced. The researchers looked at data on 57,000 people in the U.S. from 1972 and 2012, and found that each sibling (up to seven) reduced the likelihood of divorce by two percent. Having more than seven siblings didn't have the same beneficial effect, but it didn't hurt, either.
That translates into only slightly better odds for someone with just one sibling over an only child, but the odds of staying married improve significantly for a person with a host of brothers and sisters. And the findings held true for all generations covered in the study.
"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 psychology professor Donna Bobbitt-Zeher said. "But we found that the real story appears to be how family dynamics change incrementally with the addition of each sibling."
The authors couldn't identify precisely why brothers and sisters provide protection against divorce, saying more research was needed. But they have some theories. "Having more siblings means more experience dealing with others," Bobbitt-Zeher said, "and that seems to provide additional help in dealing with a marriage relationship as an adult."
"You have to consider other people's points of view and learn how to talk through problems," said co-author Doug Downey. "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."
Other studies suggest the beneficial effects might go even further. "If you believe the studies that show that happily-married people are healthier and live longer," says Angela Townsend at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "then you may have your brothers and sisters to thank for that, too."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- How U2 became the new Nickelback
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- 9 ways you're probably teaching your kids bad money habits
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week