Sibling Bullying: An Understudied Phenomenon?

First Posted: Sep 23, 2013 12:33 PM EDT

Sibling bullying can make a mark on individuals that never leaves. As it may often go unnoticed by parents as horse-play between brother and sister, researchers take a more in-depth look at what these interactions mean and preventative measures that are important to take when they start.  

According to researchers at Clemson University, they discuss this overlooked phenomenon. Lead study author psychology professor Robin Kowalski and co-author Jessica Skinner examined sibling bullying by studying prevalence rates to the extent of which siblings perceive bullying to be normative and victim-perpetrator differences in perceptions of bullying.

The study shows that 75 percent of participants in the study reported being bullied by a sibling and as many as 85 percent reported bullying a sibling.

 "Normally in bullying research, percentages are significantly lower for perpetration than victimization," said Kowalski, via a press release. "Notably, in this research on sibling bullying, percentages were higher for those willing to admit to perpetrating sibling bullying, suggesting that it wasn't all that big a deal."

The study notes that the findings were supported by additional data that shows how among most sibling pairs, a certain amount of bullying is considered normal.

Determining these levels was more complicated as victims and perpetrators evaluated bullying instances in different lights. For example, victims saw bullying events more negatively than perpetrators, as expected by the researchers.

Kowalski notes that these findings show an increased awareness of the understudied phenomenon.

"People tend to think that siblings are going to tease and bully one another; just goes with the territory," Kowalski said, via the release. "Minimizing the behavior in this way, however, fails to examine the consequences that sibling bullying can have for the relationship between the siblings involved, something that most definitely needs additional research."

She also suggests that annual checkups should be used as a venue to increase awareness regarding bullying.

 "Annual checkups with a pediatrician would certainly assist with increasing awareness about and preventing sibling bullying," Kowalski said, via the release. "It's a great forum for professionals to educate and talk to parents about what is happening with their children regarding bullying."

What do you think?

More information regarding the study can be found via the Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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