Older Boys Often Pummel
Younger Siblings, Studies Find

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately peeling Seth off his younger sister, Lael. Our boy usually isn’t trying to hurt her, but his playful exuberance often upsets her.

Most of Seth’s antics seem to revolve around getting our attention away from Lael. Every now and then, though, anger or jealousy flares on his face, which we react to immediately by removing our boy from the situation.

Apparently, many siblings behave much, much worse, reports The New York Times. In fact, the story opens and closes with a man who was repeatedly pummeled by his older sibling when they were growing up. The level of violence the victim describes is shocking. While I rough-housed with my younger brother, I certainly didn’t pin him down and repeatedly beat him.

But siblings can be quite vicious. Consider these numbers, from a study mentioned in the Times:

  • 35 percent of children report being attacked by a sibling.
  • 13 percent of those attacked were injured.
  • 6 percent were attacked with a weapon.
  • 40 percent were attacked repeatedly.

There is no question that the ultimate responsibility falls with the parents. This problem can’t be blamed on TV or candy.

It is also clear that a strong dad can make a huge difference in preventing such abuse from occurring. An indifferent or uninvolved dad is a strong indicator of unchecked sibling rivalry.

It’s something I will keep I mind as my kids get older.

14 thoughts on “Older Boys Often Pummel
Younger Siblings, Studies Find

  1. landismom

    Somebody emailed me this article a few days ago, after I wrote a post about sibling rivalry. I have to say, my first reaction while reading it was “what? 26% of the kids surveyed said they DIDN’T push or shove their sibling during the past year? Right!” I find the constant mediation of my kids’ struggles to be very draining, but this did reinforce to me that I need to keep up the mediation, and not just ‘let kids be kids.’

  2. brettdl

    Yes. I can see if we left Seth to his own instincts, his relationship with Lael could degenerate. But I agree, keeping Seth under control in regards to his sister is draining.
    It must be much more difficult with two or three boys.

  3. chip

    the article points out that the violence is most common in families with many boys close together in age and parents who are disengaged.
    we’ve found that some of the pushing is a reaction by little brother to big sister being mean to him. fortunately no fisticuffs yet anyway…

  4. Phil

    I never thought about that, Brett. It has seemed to me that it would be easier to raise kids who were very close in age. Ours are three years apart too. But now that I think about it more, you’re right… The only thing stopping my son from really pummeling his sister in certain circumstances is the little voice in his head that says, “You’re a lot older and bigger than her!”
    That voice, by the way, was put there by me.

  5. brettdl

    Same here. I think this is the message ringing through Seth’s head: “You will lose your favorite train engine for a week if you hurt your sister!”

  6. Anne

    And then there is Mommy, who realizes that losing your train engine for “a week” doesn’t register to someone who doesn’t actually know the days of the week, and who ends up prying the aggressor off his sister, twisting his punching arm behind his back and marching him into his room for a time out that is right now, right here and an eternal one minute long.

  7. Kasamba

    I always thought that it was just my kids who beat each other up.
    I always pictured everyone elses homes as sanctuaries of peace and harmony while mine is more like a Thai prison.

  8. Gooch

    As the stepfather to two boys 19 months apart in age, I guess I should consider it a miracle that *MOST* of their fighting is the screaming kind, not the beat the tar out of each other kind (though it does regress into that every once in a blue moon). ALthough I can’t help but think their fighting has less to do with some deep-rooted jealously or struggle for their parents attention, and more to do with the fact they just spend too much dang time around each other

  9. Phil

    “I always pictured everyone elses homes as sanctuaries of peace and harmony”
    I do that with house-cleaning and clutter… I just know that everyone else’s homes are showcases of cleanliness and order, while mine is like a maze of toys, boxes, and piles of misplaced items.

  10. brettdl

    Kasamba: I hear that from other parents, too.
    Gooch: I’m sure there is room for a variety of reasons.
    Phil: Boy, do I feel that way. I also envision everyone else’s home as mansions with Olympic-sized swimming pools in their back yard.

  11. KC

    You don’t watch “Malcolm in the Middle” do you? They are awful to whoever is littler, and make quite a joke of it. A recent episode showed Dewey to be immune to his brothers’ torturing him because they’d done it so much….

  12. brettdl

    I used to watch it. The joke was funny the first 25 times but eventually it lost its luster. I wouldn’t let my kids see it until they were 72, though.


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