Genetic Influences on Sibling Bullying and Mental Health Difficulties

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Background. Sibling bullying is associated with mental health difficulties; both in the short and long term. It is commonly assumed that sibling bullying leads to mental health difficulties but additional explanations for the relationship between the two are seldom investigated. Methods. To address this gap in knowledge, we used a genetically sensitive design with data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (maximum N=3,959, 53% female). At ages 11-13 years, individuals self-reported their involvement in sibling bully-ing, as a victim and perpetrator, and parents reported on their child’s mental health difficulties. Polygenic scores, indices of genetic risk for psychiatric disorders (major depressive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) were computed using children’s genetic data. Regression and structural equation models were fitted to the data. Results. Sibling bullying, victimisation and perpetration, and polygenic scores both predicted mental health difficulties in an additive manner but there was no interaction between them. Polygenic scores for mental health difficulties were also associated with sibling bullying. Conclusions. These findings suggest that sibling bullying, victimisation and perpetration, is associated with mental health difficulties, even after accounting for some genetic effects. Additionally, the relationship between sibling bullying and mental health difficulties may be, at least partly, due to shared genetic etiology. One possibility is that genetic risk for mental health difficulties influences the onset of mental health difficulties which in turn make children more susceptible to sibling bullying.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcpp.13956
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Early online date9 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Feb 2024

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