Children Witnessing Sibling Abuse Are Prone To Mental Health Issues, Study Finds

Mental Health News: University of New Hampshire Study finds children who witness the abuse of a brother or sister by a parent can be just as traumatized as those witnessing violence by a parent against another parent.

Researchers collected and analysed data from three national surveys involving experiences of over 7000 children between the ages of one month to 17 years old. Experiences included any incident in which a child saw a parent hit, beat, kick or physically hurt (not including spanking) a brother or sister in their household over the course of their lifetime.

Most of the youth who had been exposed to parental abuse against a sibling, witnessed abuse by fathers (70%) more than mothers. Exposure was greatest for boys and adolescents and for those whose parents had some, but not completed, college education. Witnessing sibling abuse was lowest in families with two biological or adoptive parents. Rates did not differ by race or ethnicity. Youth exposed to parental abuse against a sibling showed higher levels of mental health issues like anger, anxiety and depression.

“As more family members are exposed to violence in the household, there can be less emotional security among family members and less opportunities for children to observe, learn and practice healthy responses to stress,” said Corinna Tucker, professor of human development and family studies.

The study results may help play an important role in understanding the mental health effects of exposure to parental abuse against siblings in young adults. The findings have implications for practical and clinical applications like lending support to children witnessing sibling abuse and siblings facing abuse, parental education and encouragement.

To Know More You May Refer To:

Tucker, C. J., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2021). Exposure to parent assault on a sibling as a childhood adversity. Child Abuse & Neglect, 122, 105310. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2021.105310

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