New Form of Bullying? Sibling Violence

I found this shocking.  But a new study has found that bullying by a sibling is every bit as bad -- maybe even worse -- than by a schoolmate.

And it's linked to increased depression, anxiety and anger among victimized kids and teens, according to Michelle Healy at USA Today.

She writes, "Although peer bullying has increasingly become a recognized problem and the focus of preventive efforts, sibling bullying has historically been viewed as 'benign and normal and even beneficial' for a child's social development and ability 'to learn to handle aggression in other relationships,' according to the study," which was featured in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, published online today.

I came from a family where the siblings banded together against our dysfunctional family so this is something not that well-known to me. But I've seen it in other families and what's been most disturbing is that the child being bullied very often idolizes the sibling doing the bullying.  (Maybe we always want what we can't have?)

But in one family, the gentle, quiet brother who was the subject of aggressive behavior by his older, much bigger sibling, sought that brother's attention over and over, just bearing the abuse -- and it was physical -- silently, almost like he deserved it.

Now these are kids who are not yet teens so it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.  What's even more upsetting is that the study proved that "sibling aggression is linked to worse mental health (for the victim)," lead author Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire in Durham says in the study, according to Healy.

In the study, Healy reports, "mental health distress scores were greater for children than for adolescents who experienced mild physical assault."  But kids and teens were similarly affected by the other forms of more severe sibling aggression, Tucker points out. "And even kids who reported just one type of sibling aggression in the past year had higher distress scores than kids who reported none," Healy adds.

So what does this mean?  Bullying is endemic in our society.  It's probably not any greater than it was in our parents' day, but at least today it's being talked about.  I worried a lot when my son entered middle school because he's a quiet, gentle type, too.  But somehow he immediately made friends, even standing up for other kids who were being bullied, and it stopped being such a worry for me.

But middle school lasts three years and who knows what's ahead?  I pray that we've taught him right and that he would come and tell me if this was happening to him.  Teachers can be bullies, too.  And I even had a boss who left me shaking every time I heard his voice in the hall.

We'll always have bullies in our world and the trick, I guess, is to somehow learn a way to deal with it.  I read somewhere recently that bullies are among the kids hurting the most.  It probably doesn't help if someone's always slamming your locker shut (and just missing your fingers),
but try to think what's going on in this person's life, maybe even try to make a friend, and in the end, he may just surprise you.


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