But what kind of effect does having lots of siblings have on our future development? Tons of studies have explored the topic, and they show the number of siblings we have may affect us — for better or worse — in six big areas:
Good news, creative types: Brothers and sisters might make you more creative. A study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that firstborns with lots of siblings were more creative (provided the siblings were close in age or of the opposite sex).
Michigan artist Marlee Brown says having multiple siblings definitely helped boost her creativity early on. “It helps you define yourself because there are so many people, you have to figure out a way to stand out or be different,” says Brown, who has six children of her own and grew up in a family of four kids (including her equally creative sister, Yahoo Makers Editor in Chief Katie Brown). “That helps you feel like you can be anything you want to be. Whereas maybe if you have a small family there’s one road to walk and there’s an expectation of that. In a bigger family you can go whatever route you want. I found it liberating.”
Multiple studies have shown a possible correlation between family size and the intelligence of the children. One British study found that kids from smaller families scored higher on intelligence tests than kids from larger families — and that’s regardless of birth order. The study concluded that since intelligent parents were likely to have fewer children, kids born to such families might be at an intellectual advantage.
A lot of kids see being an only child as a party that just gets ruined when an uninvited guest shows up. A study of British schoolkids found that
happiness diminishes with each new sibling added to the household (decreased parental attention and increased sibling bullying were cited as the likely reasons).
The Telegraph cited an American study that showed that each additional brother or sister correlates with 14% reduction in obesity. Maybe that’s because there are more hands crowding the cookie jar.
Researchers say kids from larger families reportedly tend to have fewer allergic diseases such as asthma or hay fever. The thinking is that the more siblings a child has, the more germs they’re exposed to, thus giving them stronger immune systems with which to fight disease later in life. After all, chances are good that our siblings were the first to expose us to “cooties.”
Having more siblings might make you less likely to divorce. An Ohio State University study found that that people’s odds of divorce fell by two percent for each sibling. The researchers suspect the life skills people learn from dealing with siblings — including trust, cooperation and compromise — might benefit them once they get married.