Risk factors for sibling abuse

Below are some examples of conditions that increase the risk of sibling abuse occurring in the home.

  • If the parents are unavailable and adequate supervision of children in the home is lacking.
  • Difficulties with emotional connections between the family members. Parents may be physically accessible, but at the same time emotionally inaccessible to their children.
  • Ineffective parenting.
  • Low parental involvement, which is often linked to many sibling conflicts.
  • If the parents favour one of their children over the others.
  • Sibling relationships that are characterized by differences in power, defined roles and unclear boundaries.
  • Prevalence of consistent disregard for the siblings’ personal and psychological boundaries.
  • Families with marital problems, where there are a large number of conflicts between the spouses and between the parents and the children.
  • When the relationship between the family members function poorly in conjunction with external factors such as sexism in society or pornography.

Getting a sibling is not always a positive experience for the oldest child. Suddenly there is a new young individual in the home that is stealing all the attention away from mom and dad. This means less attentiveness and less time and that the parents have less access energy to meet the needs of the first child. All this might make the first child feel neglected and disregarded. It can even begin to imagine that the parents love the new sibling more. Then it is not surprising should the first child start seeing the new baby as a threat to its existence and thus becoming jealous.

Every child needs to be acknowledged and loved by their parents. However it does not necessarily mean that all children should be treated equally. Each child is unique and needs different amounts of care and attention. One tip is to see each child as an individual and giving it some alone time with the parents every now and then, for example once or twice a week.

What parents shouldn’t do when a child exhibits signs of aggression or jealousy towards a younger sibling, is to hit or yell at it. Because then the attacking child may feel that it is the younger sibling’s fault that it is punished by the parents. Such discipline measures tend rather to increase the eldest child’s aversion to the younger one and may even perpetuate hostility between the siblings that can last a lifetime. Please try to discuss the problems instead or to divert the attention of the offending child, if it is small.

Now the entry is over for this time. Please, take care of yourself and others. Thank you. See you if you wish to, next week.


You are welcome to comment if you like, but please do so with respect and good judgment.


Book: Perilous rivalry Vernon R. Wiehe, Teresa Herring, 1991




© Helén – text and photo