7 Facts Everyone Needs To Know About Sibling Violence

Learning Network Research Snapshot Fall/Winter 2017

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  1. SIBLING VIOLENCE IS ABUSE, NOT “HORSEPLAY”.
    Sibling violence is not every day squabbles or rough-housing. Like peer bullying, it involves a power differential that makes it difficult for the harmed child to protect him/herself. Sibling violence can include physical abuse, which involves intentional physical harm and pain to a sibling, sexual abuse which is behaviour that is not age- appropriate, not transitory, and not motivated by developmentally-appropriate curiosity, and psychological abuse which may be any act that diminishes the sense of identity, dignity and self-worth of a sibling.1
     
  2. IT IS A COMMON FORM OF FAMILY VIOLENCE.
    Studies suggest sibling violence is a pervasive issue. For instance, research from the U.S. and U.K. suggest that sibling bullying is the most frequent form of maltreatment experienced by children.2 Sibling sexual abuse has also be shown to be more common than parent-child incest, and may be the most prevalent form of intrafamilial sexual abuse.3 These findings show that for many children, the home is not a safe place.
     
  3. IT CAN AFFECT WELLBEING AND HEALTH ACROSS THE LIFE COURSE.
    Sibling violence is linked with negative child and adult outcomes. Some studies show that chronic sibling violence contributes to the development of traumatic symptoms4, depression in child and adult survivors, lowered self-esteem5, anxiety6, eating disorders, problems with drugs and alcohol7, school violence8, and aggressive behaviour and delinquency among boys.9 Sibling abuse is a risk factor for dating violence.10
     
  4. EXPOSURE TO INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE MAY INCREASE THE RISK FOR SIBLING VIOLENCE.
    Research shows a relationship between other forms of family violence and sibling violence, such as intimate partner violence (IPV).11 In a Canadian sample of children exposed to IPV, approximately half directed aggressive behaviour towards siblings during unstructured time.12 When children have been exposed to IPV, the possibility of sibling violence should be considered and vice versa.
     
  5. SIBLING VIOLENCE IS LINKED TO PEER BULLYING.
    Research indicates a significant relationship between experiences of sibling abuse and peer bullying.13 This link to peer bullying exists for survivors and perpetrators of sibling abuse. This may be because children who engage in sibling violence believe that this is acceptable and part of relationships with other children.
     
  6. IT IS NOT PART OF MOST VIOLENCE PREVENTION INITIATIVES.
    Sibling violence has not received the same attention as other forms of family violence or peer bullying. It is overlooked, or seen as “beneficial” so that children can learn how to deal with aggressiveness and conflict in other situations. Accordingly, opportunities for intervention are missed for both the harmed child and the child doing the hurting. Given sibling violence affects a significant proportion of youth14, it is critical to include sibling abuse in broader family violence prevention and parent education initiatives.
  7. PARENTAL MEDIATION TRAINING AND CHILDREN’S SOCIAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT IMPROVE SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS.
    While research is limited, some sibling interventions show improvements in sibling relationships, children’s social and cognitive development, parenting practices, and quality of family life.15 Central to these interventions is the emphasis on strengthening children’s social skills and parental mediation training.16 These interventions also promote positive sibling interactions, regardless of whether siblings directly or indirectly (through parents) participated.17 Additional outcome research is needed to better understand the best ways to intervene in sibling violence for different families.

REFERENCES

1Morrill, Mandy and Curt Bachman. “Confronting the Gender Myth: An Exploration of Variance in Male Versus Female Experience with Sibling Abuse.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 28, no. 8 (2013): 1693-1708.

2Finkelhor, David, Heather Turner, and Richard Ormrod.“Kid’s Stuff: The Nature and Impact of Peer and Sibling Violence on Younger and Older Children.” Child Abuse & Neglect 30, no. 12 (2006): 1401-142; Radford, L., S. Corral, C. Bradley, and HL Fisher. “The Prevalence and Impact of Child Maltreatment and Other Types of Victimization in the UK: Findings from a Population Survey of Caregivers, Children and Young People and Young Adults.” Child Abuse & Neglect 37, no. 10 (2013): 801-813; Khan, Roxanne and David J. Cooke. “Measurement of Sibling Violence: A Two-Factor Model of Severity.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 40, no. 1 (2013): 26-39; Straus, Murray A. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. [1st]. ed. Garden City, N.Y: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980.

3Straus, Murray A. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. [1st]. ed. Garden City, N.Y: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980; Morrill, Mandy. “Sibling Sexual Abuse: An Exploratory Study of Long-Term Consequences for Self-Esteem and Counseling Considerations.” Journal of Family Violence 29, no. 2 (2014): 205-213.

4Finkelhor, David, Heather Turner, and Richard Ormrod.“Kid’s Stuff: The Nature and Impact of Peer and Sibling Violence on Younger and Older Children.” Child Abuse & Neglect 30, no. 12 (2006): 1401-1421

5Wiehe, Vernon R. Sibling Abuse: Hidden Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Trauma. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, 1997.

6Graham-Bermann, Sandra A., Susan E. Cutler, Brian W. Litzenberger, and Wendy E. Schwartz. “Perceived Conflict and Violence in Childhood Sibling Relationships and Later Emotional Adjustment.” Journal of Family Psychology 8, no. 1 (1994): 85-97; Mackey, Amber L., Mary Ellen Fromuth, and David B. Kelly. “The Association of Sibling Relationship and Abuse with Later Psychological Adjustment.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25, no. 6 (2010): 955-968.

7Wiehe, Vernon R. Understanding Family Violence: Treating and Preventing Partner, Child, Sibling, and Elder Abuse. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, 1998.

8Duncan, Renae D. “Peer and Sibling Aggression: An Investigation of Intra- and Extra-Familial Bullying.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 14, no. 8 (1999): 871-886.

9Garcia, Monica M., Daniel S. Shaw, Emily B. Winslow, and Kirsten E. Yaggi. “Destructive Sibling Conflict and the Development of Conduct Problems in Young Boys.” Developmental Psychology 36, no. 1 (2000): 44-53.

10Simonelli, Catherine J., Thomas Mullis, Ann N. Elliott, and Thomas W. Pierce. “Abuse by Siblings and Subsequent Experiences of Violence within the Dating Relationship.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 17, no. 2 (2002): 103-121. Noland, Virginia J., Karen D. Liller, Robert J. McDermott, Martha L. Coulter, and Anne E. Seraphine. “Is Adolescent Sibling Violence a Precursor to College Dating Violence?” American Journal of Health Behavior 28, no. 1 (2004): S13-S23.

11Button, Deeanna M. and Roberta Gealt. “High Risk Behaviors among Victims of Sibling Violence.” Journal of Family Violence 25, no. 2 (2010): 131-140; Graham-Bermann, Sandra A., Susan E. Cutler, Brian W. Litzenberger, and Wendy E. Schwartz. “Perceived Conflict and Violence in Childhood Sibling Relationships and Later Emotional Adjustment.” Journal of Family Psychology 8, no. 1 (1994): 85-97; Haj-Yahia, Muhammad M. and Samia Dawud-Noursi. “Predicting the use of Different Conflict Tactics among Arab Siblings in Israel: A Study Based on Social Learning Theory.” Journal of Family Violence 13, no. 1 (1998): 81-103; Straus, Murray A., Richard J. Gelles, and Suzanne K. Steinmetz. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. [Transaction]. ed. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Piotrowski, Caroline, Tachie, Rose-Marie, and Margherita Cameranesi. “Aggression in Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: A Comparison of Maternal, Sibling, and Observer Perspectives.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, (2017): 1-22

12Piotrowski, Caroline, Tachie, Rose-Marie, and Margherita Cameranesi. “Aggression in Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: A Comparison of Maternal, Sibling, and Observer Perspectives.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, (2017): 1-22.

13Duncan, Renae D. “Peer and Sibling Aggression: An Investigation of Intra- and Extra-Familial Bullying.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 14, no. 8 (1999): 871-886; Wolke, Dieter and Muthanna M. Samara. “Bullied by Siblings: Association with Peer Victimisation and Behaviour Problems in Israeli Lower Secondary School Children.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 45, no. 5 (2004): 1015-1029; Tippett, Neil and Dieter Wolke. “Aggression between Siblings: Associations with the Home Environment and Peer Bullying: Aggression between Siblings.” Aggressive Behavior 41, no. 1 (2015):14-24.

14Button, Deeanna M. and Roberta Gealt. “High Risk Behaviors among Victims of Sibling Violence.” Journal of Family Violence 25, no. 2 (2010): 131-140.

15Tucker, Corinna Jenkins and David Finkelhor. The State of Interventions for Sibling Conflict and Aggression: A Systematic Review. Vol. 18. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2015.

16Ibid.

17Ibid.