Siblings disturbing each other

The Hidden Signs of Sibling Bullying

Sibling rivalry is a well-known element of childhood with brothers and sisters, but at what point does it cross the line into bullying? It frequently comes as an unpleasant shock to parents to learn that what they thought of as merely the troubles of youth may actually be a problem that can have long-lasting psychological consequences for the target. To be fair, it’s not a topic that was discussed much over the years and has only recently truly come to light as a potentially serious problem. If you’re concerned about the health of your children’s relationship with each other or are concerned that you may be the subject of sibling bullying yourself, this guide should help.

What Is “Normal” Sibling Conflict?

As may not surprise you, this can be a tricky area to define clearly. What is known is that sibling conflict is both normal and healthy and occurs in most, if not all, sibling relationships to one degree or another. The signs that your children are experiencing normal sibling conflict involves the severity of the conflict and their normal relationship. It’s not an infrequent event for children to have a fight and then be happily laughing together not more than an hour later. This is a good sign of normal sibling conflict, and in these relationships, a significant degree of warmth will exist between the children outside of these conflicts.

When Does It Become Bullying?

When the conflict between children becomes ongoing, and there is little warmth between the children outside of these conflicts, you may have a problem with sibling bullying. One of the signs that bullying is taking place is when one child acts in a way deliberately designed to cause the other child emotional or physical harm. While this can happen during particularly nasty bouts of sibling conflict, it is the deliberate, consistent, and ongoing nature of this behavior that separates it from normal conflict. As mentioned above, the other clear sign is when the children exhibit little warmth between each other during times when bullying is not taking place.

What Are The Signs Of Sibling Bullying?

There are five signs that are typically looked for when bullying is suspected to be taking place between siblings. These include:

    • Intense infighting among siblings

    • Identifiable patterns and specific choices of topic from the tormentor

    • One sibling clearly stands out as having the upper hand in age, social prowess, or strength

    • No reconciliation following periods of conflict

    • Contempt from the tormentor regarding their sibling’s feelings or pain

Sibling bullying is a serious problem that often goes unaddressed due to being misidentified as normal sibling rivalry. Children who experience sibling bullying experience the same emotional and mental anguish as those subjected to any form of bullying, so this kind of torment needs to be taken seriously. If you’re concerned, this may be happening with your children, then be sure to reach out to a Family Psychiatry & Therapy office near you in New Jersey to schedule an appointment. The more quickly you act, the better the chance that your children’s relationship can heal and the bullying can end.

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Helene A. Miller / And Other Providers
Family Psychiatry and Therapy brings compassion, understanding, and skilled care to patients throughout New Jersey. Our team of mental health professionals focuses on providing a positive and uplifting experience that aids our patients in facing life’s toughest challenges.