Sibling bullying could lead to the development of psychotic disorders

Recent research conducted by the University of Warwick has found that psychotic disorders in some adults could be the result of them having being bullied by a sibling as a child.

The study, which looked at the lives and psychotic symptoms of 3,600 children at the age of 12 and then again when they were older at 18 years old, concluded that if a child was bullied by their sibling, they were up to three times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.

The results showed that out of the 3,600 children aged 12, 664 children experienced sibling bullying, 486 children were bullies to their siblings and 771 children were both victimised by siblings and bullied their siblings. By the time these children were 18, as many as 55 of them had developed a psychotic disorder.

Moreover, the number of times a child experienced bullying had an impact on their probability of developing a psychotic disorder. If a child experienced sibling bullying several times a week, then they were two or three times more likely to develop a disorder. Furthermore, if a child was bullied both at school and at home, then they were four times more likely to develop psychotic symptoms than another child who hadn’t experienced this.

Professor Dieter Wolke, from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology, said: “Bullying by siblings has been until recently widely ignored as a trauma that may lead to serious mental health problems such as psychotic disorder.

“Children spend substantial time with their siblings in the confinement of their family home and, if bullied and excluded, this can lead to social defeat and self-blame and serious mental health disorders, as shown here for the first time.”

The study, Sibling bullying in middle childhood and psychotic disorder at 18 years: A prospective cohort study was published in Psychological Medicine.

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