Precursors of Sibling Bullying in Middle Childhood: Evidence from a UK-Based Longitudinal Cohort Study

Research output: Working paper



Publication details

DatePublished - 17 Mar 2020
Number of pages42
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NamePsyArXiv Preprints


Background: There is increasing evidence that sibling bullying is associated with various social, emotional, and mental health difficulties. However, what is less clear is which factors predict sibling bullying in middle childhood and whether child-level individual differences make some children more susceptible to becoming involved in sibling bullying. Objectives: The main objective of the current study was to investigate the precursors of sibling bullying in middle childhood in a UK based population sample. Participants and Setting: Secondary analysis of existing data from the Millennium Cohort Study (N=16,987) was carried out. Primary caregivers reported on precursors (child age 7 years or earlier) whilst children self-reported on sibling bullying (child age 11 years). Results: Structural family-level characteristics (e.g. birth order, ethnicity, and number of siblings) were found to the strongest predictors of sibling bullying involvement followed by child-level individual differences (e.g. emotional dysregulation and sex). Parenting and parental characteristics (e.g. primary caregiver self-esteem and harsh parenting) also predicted sibling bullying but to a lesser extent. Conclusions: These findings point towards structural family characteristics and child-level individual differences as the most important risk factors for sibling bullying. If causality can be established in future research, they highlight the need for interventions to be two-pronged: aimed at parents, focusing on how to distribute their time and resources appropriately to all children, and the children themselves, targeting specific sibling bullying behaviors.

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