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Bullying of Brothers and Sisters Should Not Be Ignored

6/17/2013 For Release: June 17, 2013

​​​​​​​​Being picked on by a brother or sister can be harmful to a child’s mental health, according to a study in the July 2013 issue of Pediatrics, “Association of Sibling Aggression With Child and Adolescent Mental Health,” published online June 17. While bullying by peers is a recognized problem, bullying by siblings often is dismissed as normal, according to the authors. The researchers interviewed more than 3,500 children and youth aged 1 month to 17 years or their parents about various measures of aggression displayed by siblings and peers as part of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. They assessed the range and extent of sibling aggression experienced by the respondents, looking at such measures as physical assault with and without a weapon or injury; stealing something from the child with or without force, or breaking siblings’ things on purpose; and saying things to make the child feel bad or scared or not wanted around. The children’s mental health also was assessed. The results showed that sibling aggression in the past year was associated with significantly worse mental health for both children and adolescents. Distress was evident for children and adolescents who experienced both mild and severe forms of sibling aggression. The data also showed that when comparing sibling versus peer aggression, each uniquely predicted greater mental distress. The authors concluded that parents, pediatricians and the public should treat sibling aggression as potentially harmful, and not dismiss it as normal, minor, or even beneficial, and this message should be included in parenting education.


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