A child’s vocabulary ability can depend on the quality of their sibling relationships, Canadian researchers have discovered. Despite not getting as much attention as the first-born child, younger siblings who have positive and nurturing relationships with their older siblings can achieve better vocabulary improvement and get an overall IQ level boost.
In fact, previous studies have correlated family size with children cognitive development, showing that the more populated a family is, the fewer resources are available for each child. Diluted resources and less parenting time means that a child in a large family may experience less cognitive development compared to those children in smaller families who get more attention and activities with their parents.
This new study confirms that interaction with an older sibling positively affects the cognitive abilities of the younger sibling. In a sense, it replaces the scarce resources of parenting time when that time must be spread out over more children. Consequently, interaction between children should be encouraged even more, especially when families are larger and the attention and resources available are reduced.
Establishing consistent interactions in the form of educational play and learning will help younger siblings improve their vocabulary, syntax, and other cognitive skills associated with speaking and reading.
The age difference between siblings is something to be taken into consideration. When the age gap is bigger than 5-6 years it might be difficult to get the two siblings interested in each others’ habits and personality, but because this interaction is still vitally important, persistent encouragement from parents is essential.
Playing language-based board games or online educational video games and apps are activities any two siblings, no matter their ages, will generally find appealing. Hobbies that get children out of the house and into a new setting, such as museum visits, exhibitions, and other cultural events, are also a good start for getting the siblings involved in positive interaction.
What’s interesting about this new study is that both siblings benefit from the interaction, not just the younger child. The older sibling gets to assume a more mature, responsible role and cultivate their own skills of leadership and mentoring. A win-win situation for the entire family!
About the Author: Chassie Lee is the Content Expert for eReflect – creator of Ultimate Vocabulary which is currently being used by tens of thousands of happy customers in over 110 countries.