When you decided to have more than one kid, you likely pictured laughter and giggles filling the room as your little ones busily played with each other throughout the day. While this may happen occasionally, the reality is that siblings tend to fight. After all, they are forced to live together and spend hours on end together, so siblings fighting are normal and harmless, right? Well, it may be normal, but according to a new study from the University of New Hampshire, it is anything but harmless.
This study, the first of its kind, studied the effects of siblings fighting on 3,599 children across the country, ranging in ages one month to 17 years. The results will amaze you and definitely have you questioning how you react to negative relationships between siblings going forward.
What kind of sibling aggression is considered harmful?
There are three types of conflict you need to be aware of: physical, property, and psychological.
- Physical aggression is when one child makes angry contact with the other one, such as pushing, hitting, or biting. This type of aggression can be harmful whether the receiving child is actually hurt or not. This type of aggression does have a greater impact on children under the age of 10.
- Property aggression is when one child steals or breaks another child’s property.
- Psychological aggression is probably the most common way that siblings fight, and is arguably the most harmful. For parents when siblings name call, everyone is hurt, even the parents. You don’t like to see your children be called names, and they don’t like it either. In addition to name calling, psychological aggression can include the siblings saying things that make each other feel scared, unwanted, or inadequate.
How exactly does fighting between siblings affect them long term?
Put simply, sibling aggression has the equivalent effects on mental health as being bullied from a peer at school. The child’s mental health state will be significantly worse than if no sibling aggression occurred. And it doesn’t take much. Even just one instance of name-calling or toy stealing can have a big impact. Children are sensitive souls, and they react very strongly to any negativity, even if it is from a beloved sibling.
What can I do about it?
What would you do if your child was being bullied at school? Would you sit idly by and chalk it up to a learning experience? Probably not. You would take action and do everything in your power to cease the bullying and protect your child. The same should be done for bullying between siblings. It works best to teach this lesson to young siblings, so that less damage can be done from the get go. Of course, this is easier said than done. For starters, you should do things to nourish the positive relationship between your children. When sibling aggression does occur, react strongly and make it known that it is unacceptable. While siblings fighting may be a normal part of growing up, it is clear that it should not be ignored.