It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: two children bickering uncontrollably, before ultimately, punches are thrown and the tears come out.
But perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise: new research by The University Of Cambridge has found that a bit of sibling rivalry and a WWE reenactment is actually good for your young ones.
“The more combative siblings are, and the more they argue and the older child puts the younger one down, the more they are learning complex lessons about communication and the subtleties of language,” Says Dr Claire Hughes, author ofSocial Understanding and Social Lives, speaking to the Guardian:
The findings were the result of a five-year-long study into siblings by the university’s Centre for Family Research. The report suggests that children can improve their verbal skills while learning to settle difference without caving in.
During the investigation, child subjects underwent video observations, interacting with parents, siblings, friends and strangers. They then quizzed their parents and teachers as well as the children themselves. Finally they used aptitude tests to determine their language, planning skills, working memory and inhibitory control.
“One of the key reasons for this seems to be that a sibling is a natural ally. They are often on the same wavelength, and they are likely to engage in the sort of pretend play that helps children to develop an awareness of mental states,” writes the study.
“The more the children upset each other, the more they learn about regulating their emotions and how they can affect the emotions of others – the more they point-score, the more it can motivate them to achieve,” continues Dr Hughes.
However, if the fighting does get out of hand, there’s a good chance this could reflect poor social skills in the future.
“Of course, if sibling rivalry gets out of hand, it can be very negative. Persistent violence is a strong predictor that the aggressive child will bully their peers,” she continues.
“I don’t want to be the woman who says it’s good if your children hate each other, but parents might take some sort of comfort, when their children are fighting, in the discovery that they are learning valuable social skills and intelligence which they will take outside the home and apply to other children.”