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Sibling Bullying

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More


“It wasn’t enough that her older brother was bullying her when they were growing up but her parents blamed and punished her and that fueled even more bullying behavior. In her case, child abuse was taking place at the hands of her brother and her parents refusal to see what was happening.”

Incredibly, this vignette does not describe and one patient over the course of my practice, but several patients who faced the same kind of bullying. In all cases, the parents were either in total denial or were preferential to one child over the other. The effects of this were felt were felt well into adulthood and formed part of the reason these patients were in therapy.

Recent research shows that among 3,600 hundred kids studied in a survey, had high scores on depression and anxiety. Yet, “historically, sibling aggression has been dismissed as normal,” said lead researcher Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire. “It’s been seen as benign, or even good for kids because it teaches them something about dealing with the world.” However, the findings show that sibling bullying can be harmful is left unchecked by parents.

The study shows that one-third of kids said they’d been the target of one type of sibling bullying: physical; verbal abuse, such as name-calling; or having their things stolen or purposely ruined.

Part of what is concerning about this is the prevlence of bullying at school, in the neighborhood and on social networks on the Internet, such as Facebook. “Sticks and Stones, Defeating the Culture of Bullying…,” a book written by Emily Bazelon, deeply probes the wide scale problem of bullying from every angle. In it’s worst outcome, there have been cases of youngsters who have been driven to suicide by the relentless bullying experienced both at school and on the Internet. Bazelon is quick to point out that it is usually more intense problems that cause a kid to commit suicide but that bullying can be the final spark that leads a kid to suicide.

What is clear is that the problem of bullying, a world wide phenomenon, needs to be taken seriously by adults who must find ways of interceding in order to prevent disastrous outcomes. Bazelon explores excellent educational programs that have been developed and used successfully at schools to prevent and stop bullying.

What are your experiences with bullying?

your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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