Have you ever fought with a sibling? Most of us have at some point, especially as kids. While some experts say sibling rivalry strengthens sibling relationships, others claim this can be harmful for a child’s well-being. In extreme cases, siblings torment their brothers or sisters to the point of psychological or physical abuse. This abuse can lead to psychological disorders throughout a child’s life.
Thirty to fifty percent of siblings face abuse in their lifetime. What line can parents determine which is plain sibling rivalry and which is actual abuse? PTSD trainer Nancy Kilgore suffered through fifteen years of severe emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from her own sister. She wrote the book Girl in the Water about her abuse and the psychological effects on her life. Kilgore says parents must not dismiss that it is normal for siblings to torment each other, and suggests parents step in should they see an issue arise.
Valparaiso University’s assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Mandy Morrill-Richards claims that parental attention is a key factor in sibling abuse. Typically, sibling abuse occurs out of the watch of parents, usually when they leave the children home alone. Often times the oldest child takes care of their siblings, and begins to abuse their younger siblings due to the lack of supervision. While parents cannot keep watch over their children 24/7, these experts suggest tackling the problem before it becomes even larger or more harmful for the children. This involves weekly open communication like meetings and paying attention to any warning signs. In order to prevent self-doubt, guilt, shame, and possibly even PTSD, parents need to supervise their children, especially if they begin to harm one another.
Read the entire transcript here.
- Dr. John Caffaro, Distinguished Professor, Alliant International University
- Nancy Kilgore, PTSD trainer, abuse survivor and author, Girl in the Water
- Dr. Mandy Morrill-Richards, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Valparaiso University
Links for more information: