Children who are bullied by their siblings are just as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and anger as kids who are bullied by their classmates, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire found that 32 percent of children and adolescents experienced one type of sibling aggression in the previous year, and that those victims had significantly worse mental health than those who had not been bullied.
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Bullying could comprise anything from actual physical assaults to property victimization, name-calling, and psychological aggression, according to the study, which was published in the July issue of Pediatrics journal.
Although sibling bullying is often seen as a "benign and normal and even beneficial" occurrence that can help children "to learn to handle aggression in other relationships," one of the researchers says it is actually a lot more detrimental than we may have realized.
"There is a natural emotional intensity to sibling relationships,"
lead author Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire, told LiveScience.com. "There is a lot of love, but also the potential for a lot of conflicts."
Through telephone interviews with nearly 3,600 adolescents ages 10 to 17 and adult caregivers of kids younger than 9, researchers found that victims experienced great mental anguish regardless of the type of bullying they suffered.
"While our society has been working to eliminate bullying, it has not touched the relationship that is most violent — the sibling relationship," Mark E. Feinberg, a research professor at the Prevention Research Center at Penn State University who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience.com.
Tucker encourages parents who witness bullying among their children to act as a mediator and teach their kids "constructive conflict skills."
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