Listen up, parents: Despite what you might think, new research published in Child Development suggests that your most disruptive or disobedient children probably aren't inspiring bad behavior in their siblings — in fact, they're probably doing just the opposite. Phew!
This good news comes by way of a February 2017 study, in which Tel Aviv University researchers analyzed data on more than 900 Canadian toddlers and their preschool- or school-aged siblings. Beginning when the toddlers were just 18 months old, the researchers periodically observed the participating families and conducted interviews with them, asking the parents to report the number of disruptions they witnessed from their children.
Turns out the siblings — and older siblings, especially — of children who were frequently disruptive actually became less likely to be disruptive, themselves, over time. Read: Not only were the less-disruptive siblings not learning bad behaviors from their more-disruptive siblings, but they were also treating their siblings' actions as a lesson in how not to behave.
Because this study was based largely on self-reported data from parents, more research needs to be done to confirm that the most disruptive children aren't rubbing off on their siblings. In the meantime, though, the researchers recommend you stop worrying about your kiddos acting as "bad influences" on one another and start fostering an environment in which each of your children can develop their own unique personality.
"The study teaches us that we have little to worry about one sibling being 'a bad influence' on their brothers or sisters," study author Ella Daniel, PhD, an assistant professor in the education department at Tel Aviv University, said in a press release. "Instead, we should be more worried of pigeon holing: that one child will be labeled as a 'black sheep,' and that all children in the family will develop based on pre-assigned roles. We should let each child develop his or her individuality, which naturally changes over time."