Study warns parents not to ignore sibling bullying

Researchers surveyed over 3500 children and parents

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DETROIT - Bullying as it's typically understood happens between unrelated peers. It's kids being mean at school, taunting each other, or fighting each other.

But a new study released Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics is a reminder that bulling also happens at home, between siblings. Sibling bullying is also harmful to a child or teenager's mental health, new research finds.

"Historically, sibling aggression has been unrecognized, or often minimized or dismissed, and in some cases people believe it's benign or even good for learning about conflict in other relationships," says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, lead author of the paper and an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire.

"That's generally not the case in peer relationships. There appears to be different norms for what is accepted. What is acceptable between siblings is generally not acceptable between peers."

The report used data from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence, a survey that collected the experiences of over 3500 children aged 1 month to 17 years, who had at least one sibling younger than 18 living with them. If the child was younger than 10, the parents answered the questions.

They were asked about incidences of sibling aggression in the past year, also assessing how often the children experienced anger, depression and anxiety.

32% reported experiencing at least one type of sibling bullying in the past year. Researchers found that "all types of sibling aggression, both mild and severe, were associated with significantly higher distress symptom scores for both children and adolescents."

Children who were bullied by a sibling, but not at school, fared a bit better, the study showed. But still, the emotional impact of being bullied at home, by a brother or sister you trust, isn't easily dismissed.

Special section: The Next Step to End Bullying

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