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Scientists Say Older Siblings Are More Empathetic

Younger siblings do not understand empathy as well as their older siblings.

While people often credit the parents with raising children who are empathetic to the world around them, research published in the Journal of Child Development says that if you are an empathetic person, then you can thank younger members of your family. After all, it is a big job to make sure that you did not grow up to be apathetic to those around you.

In this study, researchers visited the homes of 452 children born to parents living in Canada who had just had a newborn. During an interview, the researcher pretended to break something and then cut themselves. The researcher recorded the child's reaction. Then, 18 months later, the researcher returned to play out the scenario again and record the older child's reaction.

Characteristics Shown by Empathetic People

Even after controlling for parenting styles, socioeconomic conditions and other factors, those living with younger family members were found to be more empathetic. Therefore, those who are not the baby in the family are more likely to be sympathetic to those around them. Instead of just feeling for those around them, people who are highly empathetic often find themselves taking on the traits of the person who is hurting.

Empathetic People are Usually Introverts

Older siblings may also be more introverted as they have trouble handling all the emotions of a large group at one time. Therefore, the next time you invite them to join you at a party or at a ballgame, it may be your fault if they decline. People who are highly empathetic value their alone time highly, and they may be fearful of getting drawn into a close relationship. They often marry later in life than their younger counterparts.

The Exception

There is, however, one exception that the researcher identified. If you are a female who has a younger brother, then you are not likely to develop empathy. The researcher is not sure why this is the case, and she suggests that further study needs to be done.

If you are the younger offspring and you often feel loved and adored by your older brother and are so proud of what he is doing to care for the world, then you can be proud of the fact that you developed those skills in him. Alternatively, if you are the younger child, then you may not care as much about those around you.

If you are the baby of the family, then consider showing this article to an older sibling to show them that you are a worthwhile addition to their lives. After all, they may still be thinking that you are just the baby who got away with murder because of your cuteness.

Make sure all older siblings you know see this!