A University of Missouri researcher believes that sisters may be helpful in health education efforts to promote safe-sex practices and healthy romantic relationships.
Sarah Killoren, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at MU and the study's lead author, said that her team's findings indicate that sisters play important roles as adolescent girls form ideas about romantic relationships and sexuality.
Killoren asserted that sisters are important communication partners when it comes to these sensitive topics.
Killoren said that older sisters should be included in family-oriented programs designed to help teens make better choices, such as abstaining from intercourse, practicing safe sex or developing healthy romantic relationships.
Killoren found sisters most frequently played the role of confidant by giving information about themselves and by asking for more information about their sisters' lives.
The disclosures made during their conversations revealed levels of intimacy between sisters, Killoren said.
The second role, sources of support, was displayed when sisters encouraged their siblings' ideas about dating and sexuality, Killoren asserted.
Killoren explained that the mentor role was displayed when sisters served as role models for one another, most frequently by giving advice.
Younger sisters frequently commented on their older sisters' negative experiences, such as teen pregnancy and abusive relationships, and made decisions to be different, Killoren said.
The study is set to be published in the journal Family Relations.