Bullying by siblings as harmful as by peers
Washington: Bullying by siblings is related to the same serious mental health effects as peer bullying, a new study has found.
Lead author Corinna Jenkins Tucker, associate professor of family studies at University of New Hampshire, said that even kids who reported just one instance had more mental health distress.
Tucker and her co-authors from UNH`s Crimes against Children Research Center - center director and professor of sociology David Finkelhor, professor of sociology Heather Turner, and researcher Anne Shattuck - analyzed data from the center`s National Survey of Children`s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), a national sample of 3,599 children, ages one month through 17.
The study looked at the effects of physical assault with and without a weapon or injury, property aggression like stealing something or breaking a siblings` things on purpose, and psychological aggression like saying things that made a sibling feel bad, scared, or not wanted around.
The researchers found that of the 32 percent of children who reported experiencing one type of sibling victimization in the past year, mental health distress was greater for children (1 month to age 9) than for adolescents (age 10 - 17) who experienced mild sibling physical assault, but children and adolescents were similarly affected by other psychological or property aggression from siblings.
Their analyses also showed that, while peer aggression like bullying is generally thought to be more serious than sibling aggression, sibling and peer physical and psychological aggression had independent effects on mental health.
The mental health of those experiencing property and psychological aggression, whether from siblings or peers, did not differ.
An important implication of this research, Tucker said, is that parents and caregivers should take sibling aggression seriously.
Tucker said that if siblings hit each other, there is a much different reaction than if that happened between peers, asserting that it is often dismissed, seen as something that`s normal or harmless.
She said that some parents even believe that it`s beneficial, as good training for dealing with conflict and aggression in other relationships.
The study has been published in journal Pediatrics.