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Bad Behaviour in Children Not Contagious, Study Says

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Mar 9, 2017

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To those parents who have wondered whether bad behaviour in children can spread like wildfire from one sibling to another: you can rest easy.

A new study out of Tel Aviv University (TAU) finds that non-disruptive kids might actually see their siblings as a cautionary tale. Over time, siblings (predominantly older siblings) learn how to behave better than their rambunctious (typically younger) brothers or sisters.

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The study examined the role of sibling dynamics in terms of disruptive behaviour, focusing on early childhood. The researchers’ conclusions were that siblings don’t necessarily copy each other, but rather disruptive children might actually influence siblings to be better behaved, in a sort of “polarising effect” according to one of the lead researchers.

Unlike previous research into bad behaviour in children, which has tended to focus on adolescents, this study tracked almost 1000 toddlers from 400 families. While mapping the younger child at 18, 36 and 54 months, as well as interviewing and observing the entire family every 18 months, the study asked parents to report the rate of disruptions of both or all children.

After statistical analysis, and factoring heredity, parenting, social environment and shared history into the mix, the study proved that parents need not worry as much about sibling influence causing behavioural problems in children.

If anything, the researchers said that parents should be wary of pre-assigning roles to children. Terms like ‘black sheep’ or ‘bad kid’ need to be avoided, as they can predetermine determine. Letting each child grow into their individuality, which is naturally mutable, is best.

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Written By The Swaddle Team

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