New research has revealed that younger children are able to teach their older brothers and sisters about empathy.
Published in the journal Child Development, the study analysed 452 Canadian sibling pairs with ages ranging from 18 months to four years.
The baseline empathy levels of the firstborn in each duo were measured initially, which the researchers did by pretending to hurt themselves.
After telling the children that they were very upset by what had happened, the team filmed the responses of the subjects. A year and a half later, those conducting the study returned to assess whether living with a younger sibling had impacted these children.
‘Although it’s assumed that older siblings and parents are the primary socialising influences on younger siblings’ development (but not vice versa), we found that both younger and older siblings positively contributed to each other’s empathy over time,’ said lead author Marc Jambon.
‘These findings stayed the same, even after taking into consideration each child’s earlier levels of empathy and factors that siblings in a family share — such as parenting practices or the family’s socioeconomic status — that could explain similarities between them.’
A recent comment by the Queen concerning her grandchildren – Prince George and Princess Charlotte – seems to back up the researchers’ claims.
Princess Charlotte could be the one teaching Prince George empathy, according to the study
While chatting to a primary school student during an official outing on her Norfolk estate in January, the 91-year-old revealed that Kate Middleton and Prince William’s youngest child likes to look after her older brother.
But if another finding of the study is to be believed, Kate and Wills’ next child – who’s due in April – will only be able to teach Princess Charlotte a thing or two if they’re born a girl.
After deciding to examine gender and birth order played a role in how empathetic older siblings are too, the team discovered that ‘younger brothers didn’t contribute to significant changes in older sisters’ empathy’.