Similar to how parenting styles can determine how a growing child behaves during his or her developing years, siblings can similarly affect actions as well. Related research supports that adolescence may be a vulnerable period for siblings to negatively influence each other’s behavior, as teens have shown to be more biologically susceptible to risky and impulsive urges altogether.
Examples include the 2009 study, “Interpersonal Influences in Adolescent Drug Use—The Role of Older Siblings, Parents, and Peers,” where researcher Richard Needle, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, University of Rhode Island and University of Haifa analyzed the interactions within 508 families. Within the observation, each family’s offspring consisted of young adolescents between the ages of 11 and 13 and older siblings between 14 and 18 years. Results showed that older brothers and sisters commonly distributed illicit substances to and used drugs with their younger relatives. However, this statistic was greatly outnumbered by peer influences, which remained the top source for young teens to obtain and use drugs.
In the 2004 study, “Sibling effects on smoking in adolescence: evidence for social influence from a genetically informative design,” researchers from Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island collected data from 1,421 adolescent sibling pairs who had previously participated in a nationwide school survey. After completing trials and interviews with the teens, the outcomes highlighted how similar the behavioral decisions were between peer brothers and sisters. When the results were isolated for the rate of smoking initiation, Cheryl Slomkowski and the other researchers found that, “About 43 percent of the sample reported never trying a cigarette at Wave 1, and approximately 17 percent of these individuals initiated smoking at Wave 2. Sibling social connectedness moderated the prediction of smoking initiation.”
Lastly, a 2013 publication, “Sibling influences on adolescent substance use: The role of modeling, collusion, and conflict,” detailed how researchers Sabina Low and fellow experts from Wichita State University and the Oregon Social Learning Center examined a sample of 244 pairs of same-sex siblings. Through a combination of questionnaires, interviews and observation, the team found that the substance use behavior of older siblings had a direct and measurable impact on younger siblings’ drug use. Overall, the relationship dynamics and reinforcement from the older child was a strong determinant of the younger child’s deviancy.
Mark E. Feinberg and other colleagues from Pennsylvania State University sum up this trend in sibling substance use in a 2012 article published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. In it he stated, “Siblings’ mutual reinforcement of antisocial attitudes and behaviors is a powerful additional influence on externalizing and substance use problems. In these many ways, siblings are a driving force in one’s competence and success at school, with peers, and with romantic partners, as well as one’s difficulties with self-esteem, depression, and disruptive, delinquent, and risky behavior.”
Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a specialized facility that can help adolescents with their respective mental health, substance abuse and dual diagnosis issues and foster well-being. If you would like to learn more about how we can help call at any time to speak with a professional for yourself or your teen.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer