Do Your Kids Get Along? Sibling Bullying Serious Threat to Kids’ Mental Health

Our Church teaches us that families are called to be “Schools of Love and Virtue”  where children learn all the virtues that help them live life as a gift.  For a significant number of children the story may shutterstock_214953085be very different.

Children who are bullied by siblings several times a week in early adolescence are twice as likely to become clinically depressed as young adults, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The bullied kids are also twice as likely to report self-harm compared to kids who were not bullied by siblings.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Warwick and Bristol, and University College London, is the first to investigate the connection between sibling bullying and clinical depression and self-harm in young adults.

“Forms of bullying where victims are shoved around the playground or targeted at work have been well documented, however, this study uncovers a largely hidden form of bullying. Victims of sibling bullying are offered little escape as sibling relationships endure throughout development,” said lead author Dr. Lucy Bowes, from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford.

At the age of 12, nearly 7,000 children completed questionnaires about whether they had experienced any form of sibling bullying and if so, how often it occurred. The same children were followed up at the age of 18 years.  Of the 3,452 children who provided data on both sibling bullying and mental health, 1,810 said they had not been bullied by a brother or sister. Of these, 6.4 percent had depression scores in the clinically significant range, 9.3 percent experienced anxiety and 7.6 percent had self-harmed in the previous year. Of the 786 children who said they had been bullied by a sibling several times a week, clinical depression was reported by 12.3 percent, 14 percent had self-harmed in the previous year and 16 percent of them reported anxiety.  READ MORE

If you need help getting your children to get along, check out the chapter titled, “Sibling Revelry (not Rivalry)” in Parenting with Grace, or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about how our tele-counseling practice can help you have the family life our faith tells us is possible!