Can being bullied by siblings cause psychiatric disorders?

According to a new study, children who experience bullying from their brothers and sisters are three times more likely to develop these disorders

Can being bullied by siblings cause psychiatric disorders?

According to new research by the University of Warwick, people who were bullied by siblings during childhood are up to three times more likely to develop psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, in early adulthood. 

Eldest children are the most likely bullies within families, with girls most likely to be victims and parents often believe the behavior is normal and that their children will outgrow it. 

However, Senior author Professor Dieter Wolke, from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology, explains that: 

“Bullying by siblings has been until recently widely ignored as a trauma that may lead to serious mental health problems such as psychotic disorder… Children spend substantial time with their siblings in the confinement of their family home and if bullied and excluded, this can lead to social defeat and self-blame and serious mental health disorder; as shown here for the first time”.

Psychotic disorders are characterized by the inability to think clearly, make good judgements, or behave appropriately, according to WebMD. They are often associated with distorted thinking, hallucinations, and delusions.

To obtain these results, almost 3,600 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children completed a detailed questionnaire on sibling bullying at the age of twelve, and then subsequently filled out a standardized clinical examination assessing psychotic symptoms when they were eighteen years old. 

According to DailyMail, children were asked how often brothers and sisters bullied them, by saying ‘nasty and hurtful things’, kicking, pushing or shoving them, and telling lies about them.Of the adolescents, 664 were victims of sibling bullying, 486 children were pure bullies to their siblings and 771 children were bully-victims at age twelve. 55 of the total 3600 children in the study had developed a psychotic disorder by the age of eighteen. The more often children are involved in sibling bullying, as victim or perpetrator, the more likely they are to develop a psychotic disorder.

The more often children are involved in sibling bullying, as victim or perpetrator, the more likely they are to develop a psychotic disorder

This study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, states that childhood trauma creates a lasting ‘cognitive vulnerability’ in the brain, with bullying found to make people more sensitive to stress.

First author Slava Dantchev, from the University of Warwick, adds: “If the bullying occurs at home and at school the risk for psychotic disorder is even higher. These adolescents have no safe place. Although we controlled for many pre-existing mental health and social factors, it cannot be excluded that the social relationship problems may be early signs of developing serious mental health problems rather than their cause.”

In response to these results, the researchers implore parents and health professionals remain cognizant of the long-term mental health consequences sibling bullying may have and that interventions must be developed in order to reduce and even prevent this form of aggression within families.

 

Latin American Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda
 

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