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Sibling Rivalry May Cause Depression, Mental Health: Study Shows

Update Date: Dec 21, 2012 10:47 PM EST

A new study released Friday showed that chronic fights over personal space and equality in the household between adolescent siblings can trigger feelings of anxiety, depression and low-self esteem.

In a report recently published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of Missouri wrote that fights between siblings about simple things could lead to depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues.

"Our findings may help parents, psychologists, and others who work with and support teens to understand that all sibling conflicts are not created equally," author Nicole Campione-Barr, assistant professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a press release.

"It may be possible to avoid sibling conflicts by recognizing that adolescents desire more privacy as they strive for greater independence."

The latest study found that teens who fought with their siblings over equality and fairness faced more issues with depression a year later than those who reported harmonious sibling relationships. They also noted that teens that fought about issues relating to personal space were more anxious and had lower self-esteem a year later.

Teens who had more fights over equality and fairness had more depressive symptoms a year later. Campione-Barr said to USA Today that teens normally believed that fairness issues revolved around "shared resources and responsibilities within the family," meaning they felt that they were not getting enough attention from their families and felt less important.

Researchers also observed that teens who were more depressed and anxious tended to have more conflicts with their siblings a year later, while teens with more self-esteem had fewer conflicts.

Campione-Barr added that structured tradeoffs in chore duties and equal times with shared household items give siblings fewer opportunities to compare themselves unfavorably to one another.

She said that "different conflicts influence teens' adjustment in different ways, and the content of conflicts must be studied together with the frequency and intensity of conflicts."

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