A majority of children and youth in the United States grow up with a sibling.
A national survey shows about one-third of children age 0-17 experienced sibling victimization in the past year. 1
National surveys show that more children are victimized by a sibling than by a peer.2
Sibling aggression is the most common form of family violence.3
Sibling sexual abuse is infrequently reported and rarely studied and treated. It may be the most common form of intra-family sexual abuse.4
Sibling aggression peaks prior to adolescence, happening most often during early and middle childhood. A national study showed that 46% of six- to nine-years old are victimized by a sibling.1
Sibling victimization is more common for brother-brother and closer-in-age sibling pairs and in white families and families with parents who have at least some college education.1,5
Physical aggression is the most common form of sibling aggression.1
Severe sibling aggression which includes a weapon and/or injury is most common in adolescence.1
For 20% of children, victimization by a sibling is chronic.6
Sibling aggression is linked with family adversity6, witnessing family violence7,8, inter-parental conflict7,8, inconsistent/harsh parenting5,7,8 or maltreatment9, and certain child disabilities10.
Children and adolescents who report even one incident of sibling victimization over the past year report lower mental health than those who have not been victimized by a sibling.11, 12
Sibling aggression and victimization in childhood are linked with poorer mental health in adolescence.13
Sibling aggression and victimization experiences are linked to lower physical health. 14, 15
Sibling victimization is predictive of being victimized by peers too. 12,16, 17
1 Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., Shattuck, A., & Turner, H. (2013). Prevalence and correlates of
sibling victimization types. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37, 213-223.
2Finkelhor, D., Turner, H.A., Shattuck A., & Hamby, S. (2015). Prevalence of childhood exposure to violence, crime and abuse: Results from the National Survey Children’s Exposure to Violence. Pediatrics, 169, 746-754.
3 Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Steinmetz, S. K. (2006). Behind closed doors: Violence in the American family. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishing (Original work published 1980).
4 Finkelhor, D. (1980). Sex among siblings: A survey report on its prevalence, variety and effects", Archives of Sexual Behavior, 9, 171-194.
5 Toseeb, U., McChesney, Dantchev, s., & Wolke, D. (2020). Precursors of sibling bullying in middle childhood: Evidence from a UK-based longitudinal cohort study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 108.
6 Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2018). Family adversity’s role in the onset and termination of childhood sibling victimization. Psychology of Violence, 8, 10-18.
7Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Shattuck, A. (2015). Family dynamics and young children’s sibling victimization. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 625-633.
8Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2020). Family predictors of sibling versus peer victimization. Journal of Family Psychology, 34, 186-195.
9Van Berkel, S.R., Tucker, C.J. & Finkelhor, D. (2018). The combination of sibling victimization and child maltreatment for mental health and delinquency. Child Maltreatment, 23, 244-253.
10 Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2017). Victimization by siblings in children with disability or weight problems. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 38, 378-384.
11 Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Shattuck, A. (2013). Association of sibling aggression
with child and adolescent mental health. Pediatrics, 132, 79-84.
12 Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Shattuck, A. (2014). Sibling and peer victimization in childhood and adolescence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38, 1599-1606.
13 Bowes, L., Wolke, D., Joinson, C., Lereya, S.T. & Lewis, G. (2014) Sibling bullying and risk of depression, anxiety, and self-harm: A prospective cohort study. Pediatrics, 134, 1-8.
14Tucker, C. & Kazura, K. (2013). Parental responses to sibling conflict of school-aged children. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 22, 737-745.
15Tucker, C.J., Van Gundy, K., Sharp, E.H., & Rebellon, C. (2015). Brief report: Physical health of adolescent perpetrators of sibling aggression. Journal of Adolescence, 45, 171-173.
16Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2019). Patterns of sibling victimization as predictors of peer victimization in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Family Violence, 34, 745-755.
17 Tippett, N., & Wolke, D. (2015). Aggression between siblings: Associations with home environment and peer bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 41, 14-24.