A new study has found children with autism are more likely to be bullied by both their siblings and their peers, meaning that when they return from school, they have no respite from victimization.
Researchers at the University of York in England also found that children with autism are more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of sibling bullying, compared to children without autism.
The study used data from The Millennium Cohort Study to investigate sibling bullying. In a sample of more than 8,000 children, more than 231 had autism, according to the researchers.
The children were asked questions about how often they were picked on or hurt on purpose by their siblings and peers and how often they were the perpetrators of such acts.
The study revealed that, at the age of 11, two-thirds of children with autism reported being involved in some form of sibling bullying, compared to half of children without autism.
While there was a decrease in bullying for children in both groups by the time they reached the age of 14, there were still differences in the specific types of involvement, researchers discovered. Children with autism were still more likely to be involved in two-way sibling bullying, as a victim and a perpetrator.
“Children with autism experience difficulties with social interaction and communication, which may have implications for their relationships with siblings,” said Dr. Umar Toseeb from the Department of Education at the University of York and lead author of the study.
“From an evolutionary perspective, siblings may be considered competitors for parental resources, such as affection, attention and material goods. Children with autism might get priority access to these limited parental resources, leading to conflict and bullying between siblings.”
The parents of the children involved in the study were asked questions about their children’s emotional and behavioral difficulties, focusing on things like whether their child was unhappy, downhearted or restless.
According to the study’s findings, children involved in sibling bullying, whether they had autism or not, were more likely to experience emotional and behavioral difficulties, both in the long and short term.
Because sibling bullying disproportionately affects children with autism, the researchers are calling for more resources to help children with autism and their parents identify and deal with bullying behaviors in the home, particularly earlier in childhood.
“Parents should be aware of the potential long-term consequences of sibling bullying on children’s mental health and wellbeing,” Toseeb said. “Persistent conflicts between siblings may be indicative of sibling bullying and this should not be viewed as a normal part of growing up.”
Source: University of York