emotional health

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Bullying At Home: Aggressive Siblings Hurt Mental Health, Study Finds

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

True story: My older brother tormented me quite a bit as I was growing up, and my parents would mete out frequent discipline, but when we were visiting my grandparents and I’d complain, “He hit me!” my grandfather would joke dismissively: “It was a love tap!”

Funny. Sure didn’t feel like love.

These days, laudable anti-bullying programs abound in the nation’s schools. But the anti-bullying movement seems to have an odd blind spot when it comes to bullying at home.

A new study just out in the journal “Pediatrics” addresses that gap, using findings from a national survey of children and their caregivers. It found that, just like bullying by peers, bullying by siblings causes significant mental distress and worsens the victims’ emotional health. Bottom line:

The authors concluded that parents, pediatricians and the public should treat sibling aggression as potentially harmful, and not dismiss it as normal, minor, or even beneficial, and this message should be included in parenting education.

Corinna Jenkins Tucker, associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire and the paper’s lead author, suggests that it’s time for the new norms that condemn school bullying to stop making an exception for siblings.

Sibling aggression has “generally gone unrecognized and dismissed,” she said in a phone interview. “Our findings suggest that it should not be dismissed and it’s in fact not benign.” Continue reading