Study reports tragic impact of sibling bullying

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Study reports tragic impact of sibling bullying
Study reports tragic impact of sibling bullying

Disputes between siblings are commonplace; however, when interactions between brothers and sisters involve bullying, significant psychological harm can occur. A new study by British researchers evaluated the impact of sibling bullying. They reported their findings online on September in the journal Pediatrics.

The study authors note that being the victim of peer bullying is linked with an increased risk of psychopathology; however, it is not known whether similar experiences of bullying increase the risk of a psychiatric disorder when the culprit is a sibling. Therefore, they assessed whether being bullied by a sibling can result in depression, anxiety, and self-harm in early adulthood. The investigators reviewed data from more than 6900 participants of a United Kingdom community-based group: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children; all participants reported incidents of sibling bullying at age 12 years. The researchers evaluated depression, anxiety, and self-harm via the Clinical Interview Schedule–Revised during clinic assessments when the participants were age 18.

The researchers found that children who were frequently bullied were approximately twice as likely to have depression (2.16-fold increased risk), self-harm (2.56-fold increased risk), and anxiety (1.83-fold increased risk, compared to children who were not bullied by siblings. The increased risks were only slightly reduced after adjustment for a range of confounding individual, family, and peer factors. Statistical analysis revealed that 13.0% of depression and 19.3% of self-harm could be explained by being the victim of sibling bullying.

The authors concluded that being bullied by a sibling is a potential risk factor for depression and self-harm in early adulthood. They recommended that interventions focused on sibling bullying should be devised and evaluated. The researchers are affiliated with the University of Oxford, Oxford; University of Warwick, Coventry; University of Bristol; and University College London, all in the United Kingdom.

Facts on bullying by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

More than 160,000 US students stay home from school each day from fear of being bullied.
Bullying directly affects a student’s ability to learn.

Students who are bullied find it difficult to concentrate, show a decline in grades, and lose self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.

Students who are bullied report more physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, than other students.

Students can be especially effective in bullying intervention. More than 55% of bullying situations will stop when a peer intervenes. Student education of how to address bullying for peers is critical, as is the support of adults.

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