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International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health

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Editorial Board Member: Birch, Diana ML / Blum, Robert W. / Greydanus, MD, Dr. HC (Athens), Donald E. / Hardoff, Daniel / Kerr, Mike / Levy, Howard B / Morad, Mohammed / Omar, Hatim A. / de Paul, Joaquin / Rydelius, Per-Anders / Shek, Daniel T.L. / Sher, Leo / Silber, Tomas J. / Towns, Susan / Urkin, Jacob / Verhofstadt-Deneve, Leni / Zeltzer, Lonnie / Tenenbaum, Ariel

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Volume 24, Issue 1 (Mar 2012)


Bullying among siblings

Dieter Wolke
  • Department of Psychology and Health Science Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  • Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex, Colchester, UK
  • Email:
/ Alexandra J. Skew
  • Department of Psychology and Health Science Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  • Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex, Colchester, UK
Published Online: 2011-11-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh.2012.004


Background: Parents are often concerned about repeated conflicts between their daughters and sons. However, there is little empirical research of sibling bullying.

Objective: To conduct a review of existing studies of sibling bullying. Are there any associations between sibling bullying and peer bullying at school? What are the consequences of sibling bullying? Is there good justification why sibling bullying has been so neglected in research?

Method: Studies of sibling relationships were reviewed. Four quantitative studies were identified that report on both sibling and peer bullying.

Results: Sibling bullying is frequent with up to 50% involved in sibling bullying every month and between 16% and 20% involved in bullying several times a week. Experience of sibling bullying increases the risk of involvement in bullying in school. Both, bullying between siblings and school bullying make unique contributions to explaining behavioral and emotional problems. There is a clear dose-effect relationship of involvement of bullying at home and at school and behavioral or emotional problems. Those involved in both have up to 14 times increased odds of behavioral or emotional problems compared to those involved in only one context or not at all.

Conclusions: The empirical evidence is limited and studies are mostly cross-sectional studies. Nevertheless, the review suggests that for those victimized at home and at school behavioral and emotional problems are highly increased. Sibling relationships appear to be a training ground with implications for individual well-being. Strengthening families and parenting skills and increasing sibling support is likely to reduce bullying and increase well-being.

Keywords: behavioral problems; bullying; emotional problems; family; siblings; well-being

About the article

Corresponding author: Professor Dieter Wolke, Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

Received: 2011-06-06

Revised: 2011-08-02

Accepted: 2011-08-22

Published Online: 2011-11-29

Published in Print: 2012-03-01

Citation Information: International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, ISSN (Online) 2191-0278, ISSN (Print) 0334-0139, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh.2012.004. Export Citation

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