Sibling AbuseThe relationship between siblings is one of the most significant contacts in a person’s life. Studies show that sibling relationships are by far the longest-lasting familial connections in a person’s life, outlasting the bond between people and their grandparents or even their parents. As children, siblings spend more time with each other than anybody else, making this relationship a critical part of their upbringing. As such, it’s essential to bring parental mentoring to these relationships to ensure they are healthy. They just don’t happen. It’s well-known that siblings tend to bicker and foster petty rivalries. This happens in just about every home, and it’s a perfectly natural, and even healthy, dynamic. However, sibling rivalries can turn into something much more severe if they cross the line into abusive behavior. A healthy sibling relationship can become a comforting constant in a person’s life, a rock upon which they can always rely. An abusive relationship, however, is likely to leave scars which are just as long-lasting and impactful as the comfort offered in a healthy one. The important thing is for parents to be diligent to encourage healthy, positive relationships between siblings. The unity of the family is at stake. After all, a person only has one family, and they should strive to make their family one that supports each other, no matter what the world hurls at them. They will stick together and assist each other. Here are some practical thoughts about minimizing sibling abuse while encouraging family unity.
Violence Between SiblingsIt can be hard to separate typical kid behavior from malicious sibling abuse, but there are some definite things to look for in your household. A recent study shows that up to 80% of youth experience some form of sibling abuse at one time or another. This abuse can take many types, including physical, emotional, or psychological abuse and it’s reportedly even more common than child abuse or domestic abuse. While these numbers seem high, the same studies indicate that only about 3% of children are in a dangerous sibling relationship. An unfortunate element of sibling abuse is that it is also one of the most under-reported forms of violence in the country. Many families tend to ignore these types of things or rationalize them until they become normal. Young children are also far less likely to speak up about this abuse since they might feel like they’re betraying their sibling or won’t be believed. That’s why it’s so important for parents to be mindful of the relationships between their children and watch out for warning signs.
Causes of Sibling AbuseThere are several reasons and predictors for sibling abuse. By understanding the origins, you can stay vigilant and take action long before any abuse actually takes place.
- Similarity – Some children are too much alike, which can lead to friction. Children who are both extraordinarily dominant and aggressive are more likely to come into conflict with one another, for instance, as are children who share the same passions and aspirations.
- Polar Opposites – Kids who are entirely different from one another are also likely to find themselves at odds. If your children can’t see any sort of common ground, they might develop resentments toward each other.
- Lack of Boundaries – Kids who have difficulty respecting boundaries and the personal space of others are far more likely to come into serious conflict with their siblings.
- Competition – If you or your spouse are not often available to your kids, it can create an air of competition. If your kids feel like they need to compete for your attention, this can escalate to more severe issues.
- Inferiority – Kids who feel entirely outdone by their siblings are likely to develop feelings of anger and inadequacy which can be expressed in increasingly violent and unhealthy ways.
Symptoms to Look Out ForKnowing what sibling abuse is and where it comes from is only half the battle. Even the most vigilant and attentive parents may find themselves in a situation where their children are acting out against each other, so make sure you’re watching for signs that sibling rivalry has gotten out of hand. Openly abusing each other verbally or physically. This is one of the more obvious forms of sibling abuse and one of the easiest to control. Make your home a safe zone, with a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of physical violence and name-calling. If kids feel free to engage in this sort of behavior in front of you, you can expect that it’s much worse when you’re not around.
- Constant bickering. It’s normal for kids to have a regular back-and-forth, arguing about all kinds of things and getting into heated conversations. That having been said, a healthy relationship also includes a great deal of positive and healthy interaction. If you’re only seeing bickering between your children, it might be time to intervene and moderate the situation.
- Hurtful criticism and naked jealousy. Again, criticizing one’s siblings it not, of itself, an abusive behavior, but it can be a symptom of abuse. If you hear your child needlessly and maliciously criticizing their sibling, you need to take a look at what’s going on. An isolated incident is probably nothing to be overly concerned with, but if you see a pervasive pattern of criticism, it could be a sign of something more serious.
- Territorial behavior. If your kids have become intensely defensive of their personal space, particularly in regards to their siblings, it can be a problem. Kids who feel safe with one another rarely feel the need to jealously guard their own area. If they’re doing so, it’s worth investigating why they feel threatened or afraid.