Lesson #7: Fast Facts on Sibling Violence

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  • When a man hits his partner, we call it intimate partner violence.
  • When parents hit their children, we call it child abuse/maltreatment.
  • When a child repeatedly ridicules her classmate, we call it bullying.
  • Yet, when a sibling hits a brother or sister, we call it “horseplay”.

(http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/our-work/issuebased_newsletters/issue-21/index.html, 2014)

  • In the United States, 40% of the children engage in physical sibling abuse and 85% engage in psychological sibling abuse
    • A study of 272 high school students found 60% reported experience with sibling abuse
    • Of the 32% of children and adolescents surveyed had been victims of siblings abuse (Mandy, 2017)
  • More than 29 million American children engage in one or more acts of physical violence toward a sibling, in a single year.
    • 53 out of 100 children attack a brother or sister severely (throwing things, kicking, punching, etc) per year.
    • Hence, over 19 million of the attacks would be considered assault if it was outside of the family.
    • 3 in 1000 or when applying to the country’s rate, 109,000 children have used a knife or gun on a brother or sister during the survey year (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family, 1980).

Sibling abuse is considered even more frequent than spouse or child abuse by a parent (http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/sibabuse.htm, 2012).

Research has found that sibling violence is a predictor of dating violence.  Dating violence is more common among partners who had punched, shoved or otherwise abused their siblings than those who had not (www.eurekalert.org);

The journal Child Maltreatment reports that 35 percent of the 2030 children in one study had been “hit or attacked” by a sibling in the previous year.  14 percent of the children were repeatedly attacked by a sibling; 4.55% were hit hard enough to sustain injuries and 2 percent were hit by brothers or sisters wielding rocks, toys, broom handles, shovels and even knives (www.theledger.com);

Children ages 2 to 9 who were repeatedly attacked were twice as likely as others their age to show severe symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and depression, like sleeplessness, crying spells, thoughts of suicide and fears of the dark (www.theledger.com);

Often the roots of sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, alcoholism, and drug problems lie in sibling abuse (Iowa State University Extension Services, Understanding Abuse:  Sibling abuse);

If a sibling is being abused

  • Child avoids interactions with sibling(s)
  • Child fears being left alone with sibling(s)
  • Child doesn’t want to be at or go home
  • Child acts out abuse in play
  • Child has unexplained bruises, scrapes, or other injuries after hanging out with sibling(s)
  • Child is overly compliant or withdrawn when interacting with sibling(s)
  • Child’s relationship with sibling(s) is entirely negative