Parents shout. Siblings bully

U. WARWICK (UK) — Children who are shouted at and slapped by their parents often go on to bully their brothers and sisters.

In a sample of 2,146 young people 11 to 15 years old, nearly 50 percent of children admitted to being involved in bullying at home. Of these, nearly 42 percent of children who are slapped by their parents and 37 percent who are shouted at admitted that they bullied their siblings and were subject to bullying themselves.

For those children who were never slapped or shouted at the percentage of those who bully and those being bullied was 32 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Unlike bullying at school, a family’s social standing such as level of education and income, has little effect on whether siblings bully each other, except in cases of extreme poverty. Parents who spend more leisure time with their children and who argue less with them have offspring that are less likely to bully each other.

“Bullying among siblings is widespread and frequent with up to 50 percent involved in sibling bullying every month, and between 16 and 20 percent involved in bullying several times a week,” says Dieter Wolke, professor of psychology at the University of Warwick.

“We know that experience of sibling bullying increases the risk of involvement in bullying in school. Children who are involved in bullying at home and at school are 14 times more likely to suffer behavior and emotional problems; they have no place that is safe for them.

“Here is a link between parents’ behavior toward their children and bullying between the children.

Strengthening families and parenting skills and increasing sibling support is likely to reduce bullying in school and increase well-being.”

The type of family a child is brought up in, with both natural parents or with a step-parent, for example, has less association with sibling bullying than the number of children and the child’s position in the family.

Having more than one sibling, and in particular, having brothers or a mixture of brothers and sisters increases the chance of being involved in some sort of sibling bullying.

Middle children are slightly more likely than the eldest to be involved in bullying behavior and the youngest child is the least likely to be involved in any kind of bullying behavior. The eldest child is also more likely to be a pure victim of bullying within the home and least likely to be a pure bully than the middle or youngest siblings.

“There is an assumption that the eldest child is most likely the strongest and biggest in the sibling group and will do most of the bullying,” says Alexandra Skew, joint researcher at the University of Essex.

“In reality it is the middle children who are competing for their parents’ attention and for use of games and toys with both their elder and younger siblings that display a greater propensity to bully their brothers and sisters.”

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