What about sibling bullying?

The  definition of bullying is a contested topic. As mentioned in the section of this blog, “What Is Bullying,” most academics seem to agree that bullying involves meanness or aggression between two or more peers. It can be found in playgrounds, classrooms, and cyberspace. But what about bullying within the home–when it occurs between siblings?

In June of 2013, the New York Times released an article called “When the Bully Is a Sibling.” In this article, Anahad O’Connor argues that though sibling aggression is often normalized as a “rite of passage,” it should not necessarily be taken so lightly.1 In fact, sibling bullying may put some children at risk for developing unfavorable mental health consequences.1

O’Connor cites findings from a University of New Hampshire study, which was published in the academic journal Pediatrics and included 3,600 subjects. According to O’Connor, one of the study’s major findings was a positive correlation between sibling bullying and mental wellbeing.1 In other words, the research found that children who had been “attacked, threatened, or intimidated by a sibling” were more likely to also exhibit greater degrees of “depression, anger and anxiety.”1

However, as Huffington Post blogger and bullying prevention advocate Deborah Temkin cautiously reminds readers, families need to be cautious in their interpretations of academic research.2 Not everyone defines bullying the same way,2 and individual children and siblings also have their own unique interactions with one another. In general, media sensationalism can lead to misinterpretation and overgeneralization of research findings.2 Temkin encourages individuals to be responsible with these findings, as do we.2



  1. O’Connor, A. (2013, June 17). When the bully is a sibling. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/17/when-the-bully-is-a-sibling/

  2. Temkin, D. (2013, June 20). Is sibling ‘bullying’ as harmful as peer bullying? The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-temkin/is-sibling-bullying-as-harmful-as-peer-bullying_b_3472798.html


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