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Sibling bullying can lead to poor mental health in teenage

boy bullying brother

Sibling bullying can lead to poor mental health in teenage


While we may think that bullying starts and ends in childhood, it's not always so. The physical pains may go away, but not the psychological effect. New research has found that sibling bullying leads to poor mental health later in teenage, in both the perpetrator and victim. 

How sibling bullying affects mental Health in young people

The new study reveals that adolescents frequently bullied by their siblings are highly likely to experience mental health challenges later. You may be inclined to explain this by common sense: children who suffer repeated bullying will tend to have lower self-esteem, depression, and even loneliness. But there's more than one research now backing up this "common sense."

Surprisingly, it goes way more than that!

Intuition would tell you that the perpetrators -- those who bullied their siblings -- go scot-free. Perhaps, they would even develop higher self-esteem and confidence. But you'd be shocked. They are also at risk of poor mental health.

Several previous studies have shown that one is especially vulnerable during their adolescence. In short, adolescence is a time when mental health deterioration usually begins and is more likely to occur.

Fractured sibling relationship, including sibling bullying, has been linked to poor mental health outcomes in adolescence before now. However, there was no information as to the severity or duration of the mental health outcomes. Neither was there any study on whether poor mental health is experienced only by the bullied kid.

The new research throws light on all of that.

The Research

The study, which looked at over 17,000 people, found that when siblings bully each other, both the victim and the bully can end up with mental health problems as teenagers. Furthermore, the more often siblings bullied each other, the worse the mental health problems were.

But that's not all.

Even if someone was only a bully and not a victim, they still had worse mental health later on. The study covered things like self-esteem, wellbeing, and psychological distress.

Dr. Umar Toseeb, who led the study, duly noted how shocking and unexpected the results were. "Those who bullied their siblings but weren't bullied themselves had poorer mental health outcomes years later," he said.


The study also used data from another study set up in the early 2000s to investigate lives in the new century. The young participants answered questions about sibling bullying between ages 11 and 14 and further questions about their mental health when they turned 17. Their parents were also involved in the questionnaire.

The Takeaway

The research suggests that reducing bullying in early adolescence will go a long way in mitigating and treating mental health challenges later in adulthood. Of course, since bullying contributes significantly to these issues, they would be easier to handle if we took bullying out of the equation.

Even more importantly, children who bully others thinking it's a way of boosting their self-esteem should desist from it. The consequence is even more alarming for them than it is for the bullied.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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