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Depression risk for children subjected to sibling bullying

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Regular sibling bullying can result in an increased risk children suffering from depression when they are older. Researchers at the University of Oxford claim a new study is the first to examine the effects of sibling bullying on mental health in early adulthood.

Survey on sibling bullying

The report surveyed around 7,000 12-year-old children, asking if they had encountered a sibling hitting, saying nasty things, ignoring or lying about them. The youngsters were contacted again at the age of 18 and asked about their mental health. Researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Warwick and Bristol as well as University College London undertook the study, sending out questionnaires to thousands of families with 12-year-olds then following them up six years later. Children taking part in the poll were asked if they had siblings whether they had experienced any form of bullying. “This means when a brother or sister tries to upset you by saying nasty and hurtful things, or completely ignores you from their group of friends, hits, kicks, pushes or shoves you around, tells lies or makes up false rumours about you,” the questionnaire explained.

Results of bullying behavioursibling bullying

The majority of 12-year-olds replied that they hadn’t experienced sibling bullying. However, of the 786 children who reported instances of bullying behaviour happening several times a week, 12.3% had experienced depression, 14% self-harm and 16% anxiety when surveyed again at 18. These figures are twice as high as those for children who had not been bullied. The study also showed that girls are more likely to be bullied than boys, particularly in families with three or more children and that big brothers were often responsible for the bulling behaviour.

Reaction

Lead author Dr Lucy Bowes, from the department of social policy and intervention at the University of Oxford, said: “We need to change the conversation we have about this. If it occurred in a school setting there would be repercussions. It may be causing long-term harm. We need to do more research, but we also need parents to listen to their children.” She continued: “We are not talking about the sort of teasing that often goes on within families, but incidents that occur several times a week, in which victims are ignored by their brothers or sisters, or are subjected to verbal or physical violence.”

Emma Jane Cross from the BeatBullying charity said that parents should intervene in sibling bullying before it goes too far. She told the BBC: “Being bullied as a child can have a devastating effect which lasts a lifetime. Parents who are concerned about this issue should speak to their children as early as possible before the problem escalates. It’s important to tackle the underlying issues behind more frequent bullying behaviour rather than dismissing it as normal sibling rivalry.”

 

 

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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