According to researchers in Italy, Children who bully others at school are also more likely to bully their siblings at home.
The new study examined bullying behavior in school-age children and its effects on their siblings. The researchers also looked at factors such as the child’s gender and age.
A total of 195 children ages 10 through 12 took part in the study. All of the children had a sibling no more than four years older or younger than them. Children were given questionnaires that asked whether they were a victim of bullying, or bullied their peers at school, and whether they were a victim of bullying by a sibling or bullied a sibling at home.
“We found that children with older male siblings were the most victimized group,” noted Ersilia Menesini who, with colleagues at the Universita’ degli Studi di Firenze, designed the study.
“Significantly more boys than girls told us that they bullied their sibling, who was most likely to be younger than them,” Menesini continued.
“It’s likely that this form of sibling bullying is all about maintaining a position of dominance.”
“However, for girls, bullying is mainly related to a poor quality of sibling relationship and not to birth order. In fact, high levels of conflict and low levels of empathy were significantly related to sibling bullying and sibling victimization.”
A significant link between bullying and victimization patterns at home and at school was found. Children who bullied siblings were likely to bully their peers, while victims at home were likely to also be victimized at school.
“It is not possible to tell from our study which behavior comes first, but it is likely that if children behave in a certain way at home, bullying a sibling for instance, if this behavior goes unchecked they may take this behavior into school.”
In order to prevent and reduce sibling bullying, parents should attend to sibling relationships and attempt to mediate and reduce high levels of conflict, especially if they have older sons and if the sibling relationship appears negative and highly hostile.
School teachers, on the other hand, will need to adopt a ‘family/school’ focus to understand bullying and to prevent its diffusion. Bullying can start at an early age and greater efforts should be made to prevent and to combat its growth at home in order to reduce bullying and victimization in school.
The findings are published today in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.
Source: British Psychological Society (BPS)