When I have a problem, the first person I want to reach out to is my sister. She knows how to reduce my anxiety and stop me from being upset like no one else can. I believe that my sister and I share a bond that I will never be able to develop with anyone else.

Although brothers can have close relationships, Dr. Luisa Dillner discusses research that shows sisters feel closer to their siblings than brothers do. Why do sisters have such strong bonds?

A recent graduate from Georgian College, Rachel Brawn, thinks “a bond between sisters is truly unique.” When asked about Carley, her sister, Brawn says, “I absolutely find my sister to be one of my best friends.”

Research shows that from the time they are born, our siblings are our playmates, collaborators, role-models, protectors and sources of pride and envy. They are the only people that will be with us from childhood to the end of our lives, which means they will be one of the greatest influences on our development and mental health.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway writes that siblings are likely to be the longest relationships that most people experience.

“I think the bond between siblings is unlike other relationships because nobody other than your sibling has been raised in the exact same way you were,” Brawn says.

Being raised in the same environment offers us a way to be comfortable and relate to each other like no one else can. Research about how families organize themselves finds that positive sibling relationships help moderate the impact of negative daily experiences on a person’s mental health.

“I think my sister and I will always be close,” Brawn says. “At the end of the day, family is the only true constant.”

For me, I cannot imagine my life without my sister, Allison. When I envision the future, I know she will be there as my confidante for years to come. However, if you asked me during our childhood, I might have said something different.

Cambridge University psychologist Terri Apter says the relationship between sisters is one of the most complex relationships there is. Apter says it shapes the relationships we develop throughout our lives with friends and coworkers — we play out the sisterly role with other women.

Apter says when we have a sister that looks and acts similar to us, we fight hard to establish our own identity and personality. A sister threatens our place not only within the family, but the world. This is what causes jealousy.

Jealousy is completely normal for siblings to experience. I remember it was difficult growing up

watching my older sister begin dating, getting a job and graduating before me — those were things I wanted to do.

Though they may be our rivals, Apter says we are perfectly capable of being as successful and happy as our sisters. Jealousy can run deep, but can also be pushed aside to allow us to be supportive and grow even closer.

But fighting with siblings is a normal part of childhood development.

Brawn recalls that she fought with her sister less as they entered adulthood together. Although they once constantly bickered about chores and stolen clothes, current arguments only stem from misplaced frustrations. My sister and I have disagreements when we are experiencing anxiety or stress as well. Even though we have silly fights, we come back from them closer and more understanding of each others’ problems.

Relationships with sisters are important because your friends cannot always relate to your family conflicts and cannot reminisce about your family memories.

“I relate to my sister more when it comes to family matters and feel more comfortable confiding in her about certain things,” says Brawn. “I know we take each other for granted at times but I truly value each and every precious moment that we have shared.”

In her research, Dillner spoke with many women who regret the distance between them and their sisters.

The relationship between sisters is important in building relationships, maintaining good mental health and developing companionship. Life can pull people apart, but there are ways to stay close with your sister.

Reader’s Digest suggests not falling back into childhood roles like “the bossy older sister,” or the “needy younger child.” Focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship and letting go of grudges are conscious decisions that can keep sisters together.

Child psychology studies have  found that one of the most important ways to stay close with a sibling is to offer love and support during stressful times.

Although your sibling may move far away or be busy, being there for each other is still important.

“We may go down separate paths in our lives and go through periods where we may not be as close as we once were, but I know we will always find our way back to each other,” Brawn says.

By Elanna Clayton

Image by Terry Tan