[ Watch The Video: Sibling Bullying Could Lead To Mental Problems ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Many recent public awareness campaigns have focused on preventing bullying among peers, whether that bullying takes place at school or the workplace. However, some new studies have begun looking at the home as the place where the psychological mechanisms that give rise to bullying first take root.
In one such study recently published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers found a relatively casual attitude toward bullying between siblings.
Study researchers said they set out to discover if siblings see sibling bullying as normal and to examine the victim-perpetrator differences in perceptions of sibling bullying. Volunteers included 27 sibling pairs who provided stories about personal experiences of sibling bullying, completed surveys regarding these experiences and responded to their sibling’s stories.
The researchers said 75 percent of the participants reported being bullied by a sibling and 85 percent said they had bullied a sibling.
“Normally in bullying research, percentages are significantly lower for perpetration than victimization,” said study author Robin Kowalski, a psychologist at Clemson University. “Notably, in this research on sibling bullying, percentages were higher for those willing to admit to perpetrating sibling bullying, suggesting that it wasn’t all that big a deal.”
The researchers supported their findings with additional data that showed there is a norm of acceptance about sibling bullying among sibling pairs. The study also showed that victims and perpetrators did not see specific instances of sibling bullying the same way. Victims saw instances of sibling bullying more negatively than their perpetrators did.
Kowalski said she hopes these findings will ultimately raise awareness of an understudied phenomenon.
“People tend to think that siblings are going to tease and bully one another; just goes with the territory,” Kowalski said. “Minimizing the behavior in this way, however, fails to examine the consequences that sibling bullying can have for the relationship between the siblings involved, something that most definitely needs additional research.”
She added that annual checkups at the pediatrician’s office could be used as a venue to increase awareness about sibling bullying.
“Annual checkups with a pediatrician would certainly assist with increasing awareness about and preventing sibling bullying,” said Kowalski. “It’s a great forum for professionals to educate and talk to parents about what is happening with their children regarding bullying.”
A related study published in June found that sibling aggression can be just as traumatic for a young child or adolescent as bullying from an unrelated peer. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study was based on data from The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence.
“For all types of sibling aggression, we found that being the victim was linked to lower well-being for both children and adolescents,” lead author Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at UNH, told USA Today.
“Even kids who reported just one instance had more mental health distress,” she added.
According to Tucker, the research showed that parents should regard sibling aggression as a serious factor when considering their child’s mental health.
“If siblings hit each other, there’s a much different reaction than if that happened between peers,” she said. “It’s often dismissed, seen as something that’s normal or harmless. Some parents even think it’s beneficial, as good training for dealing with conflict and aggression in other relationships.”