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Bullying by siblings can be damaging too, study says

| Monday, June 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Bullying and aggressive behavior by a sibling can be as damaging as bullying by another peer, finds a new study that links it to increased depression, anxiety and anger among victimized kids and teenagers.

And that association holds true for the types of aggressive behavior studied, both mild and severe, from physical and psychological to property victimization, researchers say.

Although peer bullying has increasingly become a recognized problem and the focus of preventive efforts, sibling bullying has historically been viewed as “benign and normal and even beneficial” for a child's social development and ability “to learn to handle aggression in other relationships,” according to the study in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics and published online on Sunday.

The study “shows that sibling aggression is linked to worse mental health (for the victim), and in some cases it's similar to what you find for peer aggression,” says lead author Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

Tucker and colleagues analyzed data from The National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence, focusing on nearly 3,600 kids 17 and younger with at least one sibling living in the household. Kids were interviewed by phone about victimization in the past year.

Just as parental violence and marital violence occur in families, “sibling violence happens as well,” says Nicole Campione-Barr, director of the Family Relationships and Adolescent Development Lab at the University of Missouri. “This is something we really need to be aware of.”

She was not involved in the new study.

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