Sibling Bullying Just As Damaging [AUDIO]
It’s not uncommon for siblings to argue, tease and even get physical on occasion, but new research finds bullying and aggressive behavior by a sibling can be just as damaging as bullying by a classmate or peer.
In fact, sibling bullying can cause increased depression, anxiety and anger among victims.
“Siblings tease and make fun of each other once in a while. It’s part of growing up, but it crosses the line when it’s very deliberate and sustained by one sibling to another,” said Dr. Steven Tobias, Director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown.
“It can be very complicated because the longer it goes on, if parents don’t do anything about it or are powerless to do anything about it, it makes it worse for the child who’s being bullied. It not only makes them feel like their sibling hates them, but the parents aren’t doing anything to stop it which can cause the child to feel isolated and alone within the family and that is what’s most damaging.”
When a child is bullied at school, they usually come home and get support and empathy from their family.
“When it’s happening within the family, there really is no safe place for the child,” said Dr. Tobias. “Families are supposed to love and support you. The relationships within a family are really the foundation of a child’s emotional well-being.”
“When that foundation is being rocked and there are no secure relationships at home, there is not emotional foundation to help a child deal with the other conflicts and stresses that they’re going to face in the world. The emotional intensity of sibling bullying is much greater. These are people who are supposed to love and care about you and these are the ones who are picking on you the most.”
So, what can a parent do?
“Parents need to listen to their children, address it and act on it,” said Dr. Tobias. “It’s important for a child to know that you’re listening. When there’s a high degree of conflict and it’s repeated, that’s when it needs to be addressed. You can’t tell someone how to feel. If it’s hurtful to the child, then it’s hurtful to the child.”