Sibling Aggression and Mental Health

p_sibling-rivalryIsn’t sibling rivalry normal? Fights between sisters and brothers are so common they’re often dismissed as just a part of growing up. If you have siblings, of course you’ve affected each other. But a recent study from the University of New Hampshire finds that sibling aggression is associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents.

The researchers, among the first to study sibling aggression across a wide age and geographic range, analyzed data from a sample of over 3,500 children, ages one through 17. They looked at the effects of physical assault as well as property and psychological aggression.

Aggression by peers is generally thought to be more serious than by siblings. But these findings showed no independent effects. That is, the mental health of those experiencing property and psychological aggression, whether from siblings or peers, did not differ.

The media has dropped the term bullying into the conversation. Although there’s a lot of valuable information, the specific words matter. Findings such as these that can impact so many families need to be accurately reported.

In this technological age, we’re all suffering from information overload. And with shorter attention spans, it’s easy to misinterpret data. Let’s try to differentiate terms like conflict, aggression and bullying and give this important issue the attention it deserves.

It’s necessary for all of us to evaluate the information we receive. As this study suggests, parents should be more aware of what unmonitored sibling rivalry can develop into. If you’re concerned about the potential long-term effects of persistent sibling conflict, please log on here Thursday for some practical tips.

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