Sibling Bullying and Suicidal Behaviors

April 22, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

Bullying by a sibling doubles the risk of depression and both suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm among young people as they reach the age of 18, according to a study from the United Kingdom. The authors suggested that these results, which were very similar for boys and girls, demonstrate the importance of creating interventions to prevent bullying among siblings.

The project found that children who (at age 12) reported being bullied at least several times a week by a sibling were twice as likely to be depressed or to engage in suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm when they reached the age of 18. This suggests that in the United Kingdom, 13 percent of depression and more than 19 percent of self-harm may be attributable to sibling bullying. The authors also reported that “although sibling bullying tends to occur more often in families characterized by high levels of conflict and violence, our findings suggest that sibling bullying is independently associated with the emergence of depression and self-harm once such family risk factors have been taken into account.”

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(4), 1032-1039.