If you grew up with a bunch of siblings, you have a lower chance of getting divorced as an adult. At least that's what researchers at Ohio State University say.
Doug Downey, professor of sociology at the university, said there isn't a vast difference between people who grew up an only child and people who had one or two siblings. But that's where the similarity ends.
"When you compare children from large families to those with only one child, there is a meaningful gap in the probability of divorce," said Downey.
The study's co-author, Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, said the research team wasn't surprised by the findings, because they figured growing up with siblings gave people an advantage in marriage -- since they had to learn things like sharing and proper communication when they were children.
But the researchers were surprised by how significant the effects were.
"We found that the real story appears to be how family dynamics change incrementally with the addition of each sibling," she said. "More siblings means more experience dealing with others and that seems to provide additional help in dealing with a marriage relationship as an adult."
Findings were consistent
In the study, the research team interviewed nearly 57,000 adults in the U.S. and found that the more brothers and sisters a person had growing up, the better equipped that person would be in handling certain marital situations. And these findings were consistent among various age groups.
"Siblings help protect against divorce among adults now just as much as they did 50 years ago," said Bobbitt-Zeher. In addition, she said regardless of how a person grew up, in terms of things like socioeconomic status, religious affiliation or family structure, the number of siblings that person had still makes a huge difference when it comes to marriage.
"When we added in all of these controls, nothing took away the relationship we saw between siblings and later divorce," said Bobbitt-Zeher. "None of these other factors explained it away."
But Downey and his team still looked at other reasons why kids in larger families seem to be more successful in the marriage department.
"One argument might be that it isn't siblings that matter, but some other difference between large families and small families," said Downey. "It could have been that small families are more likely to have a single parent, or have some other issue that may hurt children in their future marriage relationship."
Although the researchers found this particular correlation between siblings and a lower chance of divorce to be consistent, they still haven't carved out an exact reason why. Downey did say he believed it had a lot to do with communication and learning, plus getting to practice how to discuss things and be patient.
"Growing up in a family with siblings, you develop a set of skills for negotiation both negative and positive interactions," he said. "You have to consider other people's points of view, learn how to talk through problems. The more siblings you have, the more opportunities you have to practice those skills."
According to the American Psychological Association, 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, and based on several studies, things like money and bad communication are the primary reasons.
"Which means a person shouldn't be worried if he or she didn't grow up with brother or sisters, because divorces usually happen for a number of reasons," said Bobbitt-Zeher. "There are so many factors that are related to divorce, and the number of siblings you have is just one of them," she said.
"There is a relationship between the number of siblings and divorce, but it is not something that is going to doom your marriage if you don't have a brother or sister."