Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Science of Duh

Having grown up with two sisters -- one four years older, one four years younger -- and remaining very close to them, I was hoping that this week's cover article in Time would have something compelling to say. No such luck. (The full thing is only available online to subscribers, but really, you're not missing anything.)

It all boils down to two predictable threads: 1. The useless --
Almost universally, the kids who practiced the best conflict-resolution skills at home carried those abilities into the classroom.
I hope it's clear that this is a chicken-and-egg argument, because I don't have the energy to deconstruct it. Well, OK, I'll deconstruct it a little... Allowing for any influence of "nature" whatsoever, it's likely that any child with innate negotiation skills would use them in both sibling relationships and the classroom, and which arena influences which -- if at all -- is a pretty tangled knot.

And, 2. The self-canceling --
On the whole, siblings pass on dangerous habits to one another in a depressingly predictable way. ... But some kids break the mold -- and for surprising reasons.
In other words, siblings influence each other directly. Except when they don't. Social science is fun!

Then there's this passage about siblings of different genders, which, while as obvious as much of the rest of the article, caught my interest:
But as kids get older, that distance from the other gender must, of necessity, close. Here kids with opposite-sex siblings have a marked advantage. Last year William Ickes, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, published a study in which he paired up male and female students -- all of whom had grown up with an opposite-sex sibling -- and set them to chatting with one another. Then he questioned the subjects about how the conversation went. In general, boys with older sisters or girls with older brothers were less fumbling at getting things going and kept the exchange flowing much more naturally.

"The guys who had older sisters had more involving interactions and were liked significantly more by their new female acquaintances," says Ickes.
So, thanks, Jule, for all the women over the years who have found me to be "a good listener." Yeah. Thanks a lot.

I kid because I love. Having sisters has made me, I think, a better person than I otherwise would have been, though I'm not sure that's saying much in my case. The more specific point here is that I imagine there are some interesting things to say about the study of sibling influence, but this article skillfully avoids saying them. For a more trenchant, insider view of sibling relationships, see today's archive immediately above.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweet ASWOBA -- Thanks for this ode to sisters from your big one.... Ideally, I think it's wonderful to have siblings of BOTH genders. ASWOBA has only sisters, but his sisters are each blessed with a sister AND a brother--lucky us! I have no idea what makes for good/bad sibling relationships, but am always saddened by estrangement between sibs and elated by my closeness to mine. --jpw

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