Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., a Clemson University psychology professor, explored sibling bullying by examining prevalence rates, the extent to which siblings perceive sibling bullying to be normative, and victim–perpetrator differences in perceptions of sibling bullying.
Seventy-five percent of the participants in the study reported being bullied by a sibling and 85 percent reported bullying a sibling.
“Normally in bullying research, percentages are significantly lower for perpetration than victimization,” said Kowalski. “Notably, in this research on sibling bullying, percentages were higher for those willing to admit to perpetrating sibling bullying, suggesting that it wasn’t all that big a deal.”
The findings were supported by additional data showing that, among most sibling pairs, there is a norm of acceptance about sibling bullying.
Victims and perpetrators did not evaluate instances of sibling bullying the same way. Victims evaluated instances of sibling bullying more negatively than perpetrators evaluated the same instances.
Kowalski uses these findings to increase awareness of an understudied phenomenon. “People tend to think that siblings are going to tease and bully one another; just goes with the territory,” she said.
“Minimizing the behavior in this way, however, fails to examine the consequences that sibling bullying can have for the relationship between the siblings involved, something that most definitely needs additional research.”
Kowalski suggests annual checkups at the pediatrician’s office as a venue to increase awareness about bullying.
“Annual checkups with a pediatrician would certainly assist with increasing awareness about and preventing sibling bullying,” said Kowalski.
“It’s a great forum for professionals to educate and talk to parents about what is happening with their children regarding bullying.”
The study may be found in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Source: Clemson University