“Hey, stop it!” “You stop it!” “Mom, she hit me!” “She hit me first!” Fights between siblings seem to be growing to be more the norm; they’re often seen as a part of the natural growing up experience. Anything from grabbing away a toy, to covert thwacks or running to the parent or caretaker with yowls of wounded indigence, these occurrences seem relatively common to most. However, there is a new study from researchers at the University of New Hampshire who have found that sibling aggression is associated with other “significantly worse mental health in children and adolescents.” Sometimes, the effects of sibling aggression on mental health were co-equal to those of peer aggression.
“Even kids who reported just one instance had more mental health distress,” says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, associate professor of family studies at UNH and lead author of the research, published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics. “Our study shows that sibling aggression is not benign for children and adolescents, regardless of how severe or frequent.”
“Tucker and her co-authors from UNH’s Crimes against Children Research Center – center director and professor of sociology David Finkelhor, professor of sociology Heather Turner, and researcher Anne Shattuck – analyzed the data from the center’s National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), a national sample of 3,599 children, ages one month through 17.”
This study looked at the effects of physical assault both with and without a weapon or injury, property aggression such as stealing something or breaking a brother or sister’s things on purpose. They then looked at psychological aggression such as saying things that made a sibling feel threatened, intimidated, or not wanted around.
The research showed that “32 percent of children who reported experiencing one type of sibling victimization in the past year, mental health distress was greater for children (1 month to age 9) than for adolescents (age 10 – 17) who experienced mild sibling physical assault, but children and adolescents were similarly affected by other psychological or property aggression from siblings.”
They also analyzed that while peer aggression like bullying is generally thought to be more serious than sibling aggression, peer physical and psychological aggression as well as sibling aggression, did not differ from the mental health of those experiencing property and psychological aggression, regardless whether the aggressors were siblings or peers.
“An important implication of this research, Tucker says, is that parents and caregivers should take sibling aggression seriously. “If siblings hit each other, there’s a much different reaction than if that happened between peers,” she says. “It’s often dismissed, seen as something that’s normal or harmless. Some parents even think it’s beneficial, as good training for dealing with conflict and aggression in other relationships.” This research indicates that sibling aggression is related to the same serious mental health effects as peer bullying.”
The authors suggest that pediatricians take a role in communicating this information to parents at office visits. Also, parent education programs should include approaches to mediate sibling contention. Parents themselves should take this information into consideration and implement it into their own homes for the good of their children and for the healthier interaction between siblings and therefore other children they come in contact with.
Source: Medical News