When Times are tough and you need emotional support, do you turn to a friend or a sibling?

Drawing on data from the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study, a large-scale survey of the Dutch population, two sociologists at Utrecht University looked at how frequently over a period of three months more than 6,000 people had received emotional support from siblings and friends, or given it to them. Emotional support included giving advice or showing interest in the other person’s personal life. The researchers found that people actually exchanged more emotional support with their friends than with their siblings. However, siblings gave each other more practical support, such as helping with housework, lending each other items, and providing transportation. Marieke Voorpostel, one of the study’s authors, says this may be because “people select their friends, whereas the sibling relationship is an ascribed relationship.” In other words, people get to choose friends who will meet their emotional needs; they don’t have the same luxury with their siblings.

© David Katzenstein/Corbis
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