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Sibling Rivalry: Worse than Bullying

sibling rivalryLong-term effects of negative interactions between siblings has shown some surprising results according to a new study.[1] Sibling rivalry is often filled with psychological and physical aggression that can traumatize children and lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and anger later in life.1 In fact, sibling aggression can be more damaging than peer bullying.1

Commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the study found that 32 percent of children who were surveyed suffered aggressive behavior from siblings that caused them distress and anxiety.1 Situations like this should be treated just as seriously as peer bullying.1

In fact, sibling violence is the most common form of family violence, occurring much more often than parental or spousal abuse.1 Nearly half of all children with siblings have suffered physical violence, such as bites, kicks, and punches.1 Of that number, 15 percent have suffered repeated attacks.1 Unfortunately, many families dismiss them as horseplay.1

Sibling aggression has similar effects on the victim’s mental health as bullying.1 It is important for parents to intervene and avoid giving their children divisive labels.1 While some feel like it is okay for kids to fight things out, the effects of this sibling abuse can persist into adulthood and cause emotional issues and self-sabotage.1 It can even destroy a child’s sense of self-identity and self-esteem.1

Researchers state that public service programs and announcements that are aimed at bullying prevention in schools could be shifted to focus on violent sibling relationships, as well.1 When siblings fight physically or humiliate each other, parents should intervene and teach proper conflict resolution skills.1 All types of sibling aggression—mild or severe—have been shown to have an impact on mental health if allowed to persist over time.1

Sibling rivalry can be even more detrimental as many carry the belief that siblings are supposed to have close, loving relationships.1 Overcoming the feeling of having a different, detached relationship with a sibling can be difficult.1 The expectation is clung to into adulthood, where one sibling is likely to continue to try and please the other.1 When they are rejected over and over again, they begin to feel more comfortable with rejection, constantly setting themselves up for disappointment, self-doubt, hurt, and anger.1 As this goes on, this behavior can be self-sabotaging.1 It may be better to let go of the continued efforts to please and look towards surrounding themselves with healthy, reciprocated relationships.1



[1] Bundrant, M. (2013). Worse than Bullying: Effects of Sibling Rivalry Can Last a Lifetime. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2013/12/sibling-rivalry/

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