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Strong sibling relationships in adulthood make life brighter and less lonely

A woman hugging her daughter as a dad stands in the background.
Erick M. Ramos
Special to NPR
A woman hugging her daughter as a dad stands in the background.

Quotes about siblings abound online. “A sibling is your first friend,” says one sweetly. “The greatest gift our parents ever gave us is each other,” says another. But what does research tell us about sibling bonds – and their effects – once we’re grown?

University of Missouri-Columbia professor Megan Gilligan directs the Families in Later Life Lab at Mizzou. She joined “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss how the dynamics and bonds that exist in youth differ from those that form – and change – in adulthood.

Gilligan also explored how building adult sibling relationships sets people up for better psychological and emotional well-being. She pointed out that a strong sibling relationship doesn’t just benefit the siblings involved, but it can help them navigate caring for aging parents and other challenging circumstances.

To hear what sets adult sibling bonds apart from other kinds of relationships, how sibling dynamics and care for aging parents intersect and why there’s room – and need – for further study of sibling relationships in adulthood, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast or Spotify or by clicking the play button below.

What makes adult sibling relationships unique?

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Elaine Cha is the host/producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.