Sibling Bullying May Lead to Psychotic Disorders

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A new study published by the University of Warwick, reveals that people who were bullied by their siblings during childhood are more likely to develop psychotic disorders in their adulthood.

The study led by Professor Dieter Wolke, Warwick’s Department of Psychology, conducted this study to explore the link between sibling bullying and psychotic disorders.

The research included around 3,600 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, who filled a detailed questionnaire on sibling bullying at the age of twelve years and further filled a standardized clinical examination to assess psychotic symptoms at the age of eighteen years.

The results showed 664 adolescents were victims of sibling bullying, 486 children were pure bullies to their siblings, and 771 children were bully-victims (victimized by siblings and bullied their siblings), at age twelve.

Fifty-five of the total 3600 children in the study had developed a psychotic disorder by the age of eighteen years. The researchers found that children who were more frequently involved in sibling bullying, as either being bullies, victims, or both were three times more likely to develop psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia.

Those involved in sibling bulling (as bully or victim) several times a week or month are two to three times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder than other kids.

The children most at risk are victims of sibling bullying, and those who both become victims and bully their siblings (bully-victims).

Children who are victimized at home and in school by their peers have higher chances of risk, being four times more likely to develop psychotic disorders than those not involved in bullying at all.

Professor Dieter said “Bullying by siblings has been until recently widely ignored as a trauma that may lead to serious mental health problems such as psychotic disorder. Children spend substantial time with their siblings in the confinement of their family home and if bullied and excluded, this can lead to social defeat and self-blame and serious mental health disorder — as shown here for the first time.”

The research concludes that parents and health professionals should be more aware of the long-term mental health consequences of sibling bullying.

Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia or bipolar disorder could be the outcomes of such bullying. Sufferers often experience severe distress and changes in behavior and mood and have a much increased risk of suicide and health problems.

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