Researchers involved in the study have found that sibling rivalry is often filled with psychological and physical aggression, which can traumatize children, leading to higher instances of depression, anxiety, and anger later in life.
In fact, sibling aggression may be more damaging than bullying.
The study was commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
During the study, researchers found that 32 percent of the children who were surveyed suffered aggressive behavior from siblings that caused them distress and anxiety. According to the lead author of the study, Corinna Jenkins Tucker, this should be treated just as seriously as peer bullying.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. John Caffaro, sibling violence is the most common form of family violence, occurring far more frequently than parental or spousal abuse.
Some studies have estimated that nearly half of all children with siblings have suffered physical violence such as bites, kicks, and punches, while nearly 15 percent of those have been attacked repeatedly.
Even severe incidents are rarely reported because families dismiss them as horseplay.
Unfortunately, this type of sibling aggression has a similar effect on the victim’s mental health as bullying.
Researchers hope that the number of public service programs and announcements that have been aimed at stopping bullying in schools could be used to shift the focus to violence in sibling relationships as well.
It’s important that parents also intervene and avoid giving their children divisive labels.
Parents may feel like it’s okay for kids to fight things out, but the effects of sibling abuse can persist into adulthood, causing emotional issues and even self-sabotage later in life. Dr. Caffro stated that it could even erode a child’s sense of self-identity and self-esteem.
When siblings are found fighting physically or humiliating each other, parents need to intervene and teach proper conflict resolution skills.
According to Dr. Caffro, it isn’t only the rough activity that parents need to look out for; the findings of the study suggest that the threshold for the effects of victimization is very low.
All types of sibling aggression, whether mild or severe have been shown to have an impact on mental health if it is allowed to persist over time.
Sibling rivalry can be extra painful because many of us carry the belief that siblings are supposed to be close – to be friends. This is a very difficult one to let go if you are not, in fact, close to your sibling.
Hanging onto the expectation into adulthood, you are likely to continue to try to please your sibling. As is commonly the case, you end up being rejected over and over. It seems more familiar to be rejected than to let go of the idea that you should be friends.
So, you keep trying. And setting yourself up to feel disappointed, self-doubtful, hurt and angry.
If this goes on long enough, you should consider whether or not your continued efforts to please are self-sabotage. To learn more about the insidious nature of self-sabotage and what you can do about it, watch this free video.
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Last reviewed: 5 Dec 2013