It’s really hard to explain what having a sibling is like to someone without a brother or a sister. Whether someone only has one brother, or three sisters and five brothers, the relationship between siblings is a complex bond.
At times it is wonderful having an older or younger sibling. When you are younger, there is always someone to play with, talk to and share experiences with. However, there is always the darker side of having a sibling, especially if they are older.
Sibling rivalry is a common occurrence. So common, in fact, that outside observers don’t think twice about it. The rivalry can easily evolve into a worse situation, to the extent of being considered abuse. Some of the effects of these rivalries or abuse can even be seen into adulthood.
Last year, the Child Maltreatment Journal published a study where it was found that 35 percent of children had been “hit or attacked” by a brother or sister in the preceding year. Of those children in the study that reported the attacks, 6 percent had been attacked with a weapon, 13 percent had been injured, and 40 percent had been repeatedly attacked.
It was the children who had been repeatedly attacked who troubled the researchers, because that is what leads to “abuse.”
John V. Caffaro, a family therapist and clinical psychologist, asserts that sibling abuse occurs when repeated violence and terrorization become a pattern. According to a New York Times article, “children ages 2 to 9 who were repeatedly attacked were twice as likely as others their age to show severe symptoms of trauma, anxiety and depression.”
It has been documented that the mistreatment continued until the children were old or big enough to defend themselves.
In adulthood, there are multiple cases of the younger sibling having problems that they had linked back to when their older brother or sister had bullied them. It is a sad fact that years after the harassment stops, repercussions are still felt from the abused sibling.
Whether it’s in the form of being socially inept, not being able to be intimate with a partner, or simply feeling like close friends are more superior, the effects can be detrimental to an adult’s ability to function.
It has been theorized that one of the reasons that sibling rivalry manifests into abuse is because of parental negligence. This could result because of a divorce, a consistently absent parent, favoritism of a specific child or simply because sibling abuse is something that most parents can’t properly recognize, thinking that it is natural behavior.
In these cases, it can actually harm the relationship between the abused sibling and his or her parents.
“When your parents do nothing and telling them about your problems only makes the beatings all the more fierce, you’re going to learn pretty quickly not to talk to them about it,” said David Turka, a junior film and media arts major. “Or, really, about much of anything.”
Even with the recent research that is being done, sibling rivalry and abuse is a topic that people usually make light of. It is not something to trivialize. Sibling abuse can gravely affect people later in life, but it has been accepted within society that it is a part of growing up.
Now that we know it can have long-term effects, this type of abuse should not be accepted. When a man fears closeness and can’t be in a relationship because he was severely beat by an older sibling or when a girl has trouble meeting new people because her older brother convinced her that she was dumb and worthless, something needs to change.
Michelle Mogavero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.