Sibling bullying hurts, too

Jun 17, 2013 at 9:08 a.m. ET

Bullying by a sibling can be just as damaging for kids as being bullied by a peer, a new study shows.

Boy being bullied at home

Being bullied by a sibling can be just as damaging for a child as being bullied by another pupil at school, a new study says.

The study links bullying to increased depression, anxiety and anger in children. Scientists say bullying includes physical and psychological actions, along with property damage. The study is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

In recent years, bullying at school or by peers has taken the national spotlight. But sibling bullying has not, and has often been viewed as normal behavior.

Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, said the study indicates "sibling aggression is linked to worse mental health [for the victim], and in some cases it's similar to what you find for peer aggression."

Tucker and her team examined data on about 3,600 kids under the age of 17 from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence. The four types of bullying were mild physical assault, severe physical assault, property victimization and psychological aggression.

Mental health distress scores were higher in children than in adolescents for those who experienced a mild physical assault, but kids and teens were similarly affected by the other forms of bullying, Tucker said. Children who reported just one type of aggression in the past year had a higher distress score than those who did not experience bullying by a sibling.

Moms, this officially puts you on referee duty at home — as if you weren't already.

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