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Don't ignore sibling bullying

June 19, 2013|By Mary MacVean
  • Siblings who get bullied could have long-lasting issues, study says.
Siblings who get bullied could have long-lasting issues, study says. (John Minchillo /Associated…)

Has anyone with a sibling not been in the back seat of a car, someone hitting someone and parents threatening to pull over “right this minute”? Just seems like part of growing up, right? Well some researchers say not necessarily.

Parents, doctors and schools should not dismiss sibling bullying, they said.

Sibling aggression can be as damaging as other sorts of bullying, and it can be linked to poorer mental health, according to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.

Sibling aggression is “too often dismissed as benign,” the researchers wrote. In fact, it’s often considered helpful to children as a way to develop an ability to handle aggression.

“Comparison of sibling versus peer aggression generally showed that sibling and peer aggression independently and uniquely predicted worsened mental health,” the researchers from the University of New Hampshire wrote.

In other words, being bullied by a brother or a sister is not better than being bullied by a classmate or neighbor.

The scientists looked at 3,599 people 17 and younger, interviewing them or their caregivers. The sample was taken from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. Three types of aggression were considered: physical, property and psychological. And there were subcategories as well, such as property taken by force, or something broken or ruined.

 The scientists measured mental health using the Trauma Symptom Checklist assessing such conditions as anger, depression and anxiety, and found that being a victim of sibling aggression in the previous year was associated with significantly worse mental health for children and adolescents.

Thirty-two percent of the children and adolescents reported experiencing at least one type of sibling victimization in the last year; 8% reported being the victim of two or more types.

“Although mental health distress was greater for children than for adolescents who experienced mild sibling physical assault, children and adolescents were similarly affected by other forms of sibling aggression,” the researchers wrote.

mary.macvean@latimes.com

@mmacvean on Twitter

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