J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140DOI 10.1007/s10896-009-9276-x ORIGINAL ARTICLEHigh Risk Behaviors Among Victims of Sibling ViolenceDeeanna M. Button & Roberta GealtPublished online: 15 September 2009# Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009Abstract Despite the fact that sibling abuse has been widespread; according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,documented as the most common form of intrafamilial over 3.5 million incidents of family violence were reportedabuse, it has been largely overlooked. Using data from the during 1998–2002 (Durose et al. 2005). While all forms are2007 Delaware Secondary School Student Survey (N= pervasive, research has predominantly focused on abuse by8,122), this paper focuses on four objectives: to estimate parents and intimates, with recent attention focusing onprevalence of sibling abuse, examine the relationship violence toward the elderly (Morgan et al. 2006; Straka andbetween sibling violence and high risk behaviors such as Montminy 2006). Despite the fact that sibling abuse hassubstance use, delinquency and aggression, explore the been documented as the most common form of intrafamilialinterplay of sibling abuse and other forms of family abuse, it has been largely overlooked from an academic,violence in predicting high risk behaviors, and test theory. research perspective, as well as from a social and legalResults suggest that sibling violence occurs more frequently standpoint (Hoffman and Edwards 2004; Kiselica andthan other forms of child abuse. Results also confirm that Morrill-Richards 2007; Lewit and Baker 1996). Excludingsibling violence is significantly related to substance use, sibling abuse as a serious form of family violence ignoresdelinquency, and aggression. These effects remain signifi- and trivializes this phenomenon. This study attempts to addcant after controlling for other forms of family violence. to the literature by estimating the prevalence of sibling abuse,The data suggest support for feminist theory and social examining the relationship between sibling violence and highlearning theory. risk behaviors such as substance use, delinquency and aggression, and exploring the interplay of sibling abuse andKeywords Family violence . Sibling abuse . other forms of family violence in predicting high riskFeminist theory . Substance use . Delinquency . Outcomes . behaviors. An additional goal is to empirical test the utilitySocial learning theory of feminist theory and social learning theory in explaining sibling violence.Introduction Literature ReviewFamily violence takes many forms, including the physicalabuse of a child by an adult, intimate partner violence, Sibling Relationshipsviolence between siblings, and elder abuse. It is also Sibling relationships include biological siblings, (share both parents), half-siblings (one parent in common), step-siblingsD. M. Button (*) : R. Gealt (connected through marriage of parents), adoptive siblings,Center for Drug & Alcohol Studies, University of Delaware,Newark, DE 19716, USA foster siblings, (joined through a common guardian), ore-mail: email@example.com fictive siblings (united by emotional bond) (Kiselica andR. Gealt Morrill-Richards 2007). Eight out of every ten individualse-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org in the United States has at least one sibling (Noller 2005).
132 J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140Sibling relationships are among the longest lasting and most Morrill-Richards 2007; Goodwin and Roscoe 1990; Wieheinfluential relationships (Cafarro and Conn-Cafarro 2005; 2000). In a study looking at peer and sibling aggression,Hoffman and Edwards 2004). Duncan (1999) found that nearly 30% of the 336 middle Healthy sibling relationships are positively associated school students surveyed reported that they were frequentlywith growth of social, cognitive, and emotional skills bullied by their siblings. When other forms of psycholog-(Noller 2005). Adolescents who report good sibling ical abuse are included rates increase. For example, in arelationships score higher in social competence, self retrospective sample of 150 adults, Wiehe (2000) found thatcontrol, independence, and general life skills (Yeh and 78% experienced emotional abuse including “belittling,Lempers 2004). Socio-cognitive abilities are developed intimidation, scorn, provocation, destroying possessions,through the myriad of opportunities that sibling relation- and torturing and killing of pets” (as cited in Kiselica andships provide to learn about one’s self and others. Siblings Morrill-Richards 2007, p. 149). Another study showed thatwith positive interaction styles also provide one another over 83% of 272 high school juniors and seniors reportedwith companionship, guidance, and support, all of which some form of antagonistic sibling interaction, with manylead to healthier outcomes later in life (Dunn 2005; Dunn et reporting being teased, threatened, or made fun of (Goodwinal. 1994; Noller 2005). and Roscoe 1990). Individuals who characterize their sibling relationships Physical aggression among siblings is common andas less positive are more likely to manifest negative recurrent (Duncan 1999; Kiselica and Morrill-Richardsexternalizing and internalizing behaviors than their more 2007; Lewit and Baker 1996). The most common form ofpositively supporter counterparts (Dunn 2005; Yeh and aggression between siblings is pushing/shoving, followedLempers 2004). Research shows that individuals with by being hit, kicked, or slapped (Goodwin and Roscoesiblings who are hostile and negative are more likely to 1990). Four out of five children between 3 and 17 yearshave lower self-esteem and anxiety problems, which in have hit a brother or sister (Straus and Gelles 1990), andturn has been related to a host of negative health and about one in five middle school students admits to beingbehavioral outcomes later in life (Dunn 2005; Yeh and regularly hit and pushed around by siblings (Duncan 1999).Lempers 2004). More severe forms of abuse, such as using objects (hoses, hangers, handles, brushes, etc.) or weapons (knives, guns,Sibling Violence broken glass, razor blades, scissors, etc.) to inflict pain are less common (Kiselica and Morrill-Richards 2007; LewitConflict among siblings is often viewed as normal, and thus and Baker 1996). Rates of severe abuse reportedly rangeit remains difficult to discern how often sibling violence from 3% to 6% (Lewit and Baker 1996; Goodwin andactually occurs during youth development (Goodwin and Roscoe 1990).Roscoe 1990; Lewit and Baker 1996; Simonelli et al. Individuals who experience maltreatment by siblings2005). Kiselica and Morrill-Richards (2007) argue that in endure both immediate and long-term consequences. Wiehedetermining sibling abuse, one must consider an act’s (1998) and Ammerman and Hersen (1991) connectedemotional and physical impact in addition to its severity psychological sibling violence to habit disorders, conductand intent. Often times, sibling conflict arises out of mutual disorders, neurotic traits, and suicide attempts. Kiselica anddisagreement which rises to the level of maltreatment when Morrill-Richards (2007) document studies that suggest“one sibling takes on the role of aggressor in relation to victims of sibling incest experience shame, fear, humilia-another sibling” (Kiselica and Morrill-Richards 2007, tion, anger, and guilt. Researchers also note that physicallyp. 149). Like other forms of abuse, sibling violence is abusive sibling relationships can lead to depression, inse-categorized in three ways: psychological, sexual, and curity, perceived incompetence, and issues with self-esteemphysical (Kiselica and Morrill-Richards 2007). This study later in life (Hoffman and Edwards 2004). Duncan (1999)focuses on psychological and physical abuse. linked aggression between siblings to school violence, and Psychological maltreatment is defined in terms of Simonelli et al. (2002) found that victims of sibling abusefrequency and intensity of potentially abusive interactions, subsequently experienced dating violence.and includes ridicule involving words and actions thatconvey contempt and degradation which strip the victim of Correlates of Sibling Maltreatmenta sense of self worth. Harm occurs when one sibling gainscontrol of the relationship through the utilization of fear and One of the strongest predictors of sibling violence is age,by reducing the other’s self-esteem (Whipple and Finton suggesting a developmental aspect to the behavior. Research1995). Research shows that between 30% and 80% of on parents and children consistently shows that youngersiblings experience some form of psychological maltreat- sibling dyads are more likely to engage in violence than olderment by another sibling (Duncan 1999; Kiselica and sibling dyads. Steinmetz (1977) found that parents of older
J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140 133children report less violence among siblings than parents of Experiencing child maltreatment and witnessing abuse areyounger children. In fact, 78% parents with children 8 years associated with a host of negative consequences, includingor younger reported aggression, whereas 68% of parents emotional and mood disorders, conflicted relationships, andwith children aged 9–14 reported violence between sib- aggression (Carlson 2000; Edleson 1999a; Hosser et al.lings, and 63% of parents with children aged 15 years or 2007). These effects are comparable to the effects of siblingolder reported physical violence. Roscoe et al. (1987) abuse (Duncan 1999; Hoffman and Edwards 2004; Kiselicadocumented rates of sibling aggression among early and Morrill-Richards 2007; Simonelli et al. 2002). Childrenadolescents between 85 and 96%. Goodwin and Roscoe who are victims of one form of family abuse are also likely(1990) documented rates of sibling aggression at 65% to be victims of another form of abuse (Edleson 1999b;among middle adolescents, 20–31% less than their younger Mullen et al. 1996). It is thus important to separate othercounterparts. This may be attributed to younger siblings’ forms of family violence from sibling violence in order toinability to escape ridicule and intimidation. Older siblings more fully understand the independent effects of each.have the advantage of physical strength, responsibility (i.e.,power), and knowledge of younger siblings vulnerabilities(Hoffman and Edwards 2004). Theoretical Framework The relationship between gender and sibling aggressionremains unclear. Neither Duncan (1999) nor Goodwin and Although sibling violence is widespread, not all childrenRoscoe (1990) found significant gender differences in engage in it. This leads to questions of why some childrenexperiencing sibling violence in their respective samples of engage in the behavior while others do not. Such questionsmiddle school and high school students. However, Simonelli require a theoretical framework. Hoffman and herand colleagues (2002) found that undergraduate female colleagues (2004, 2005) suggest the use of feminist theorystudents more often experienced physical and emotional and social learning theory to help explain the occurrence ofaggression as children than their male counterparts. sibling violence. Little empirical research has actually Sibling violence has been widely connected to other tested the utility of these theories in explaining violenceforms of family violence (Brody 1998; Jenkins 1992; between siblings (Brody 1998; Hoffman and EdwardsKiselica and Morrill-Richards 2007; Noller 2005). The 2004). This study employs both frameworks in attemptingoccurrence of sibling violence is highest in families in to further understand violence among siblings. The premisewhich both intimate partner violence and child abuse are of each theory is briefly outlined and an explanation of howpresent. Negative sibling interactions occur at four times the assumptions of each theory may help explain siblingthe rate of positive sibling interactions in families charac- violence is offered.terized by abuse and neglect (Kiselica and Morrill-Richards Feminist theory posits that violence against women is2007). Researchers find dependency among the quality of directly connected to the patriarchal organization ofthe relationship between parental figures and the quality of society (Liddle 1989). This theory argues that men’s usesibling relationships. Hoffman et al. (2005) found that of violence as a mechanism of control, particularly ofwitnessing arguments between parents increased levels women, is supported and maintained by the structuralof sibling violence. These findings support an earlier organization of society (Hoffman and Edwards 2004;study by Jenkins (1992) in which hostile and aggressive Hoffman et al. 2005; Liddle 1989). Traditional social rolessibling relationships were, in part, the result of distressed normalize the assumption that men are supposed to bemarriages. situated in a position of power and control, and that when Scholars also emphasize the link between parent–child experiencing powerlessness, men’s use of violence is adiscord and sibling conflict. The patterns of behavior that legitimated way to reestablish dominance over other maleschildren experience during parent–child interactions are and females (Hoffman and Edwards 2004; Hoffman et al.often generalized to interactions with siblings (Noller 2005).2005). In parent–child relationships that tend to be negative The feminist perspective helps explain sibling violence(i.e., controlling, hostile), sibling relationships are likely to because the “patriarchal arrangement of families, ideals ofbe aggressive and antagonistic (Brody 1998). Hoffman et masculinity, and a cultural acceptance of the use of force toal. (2005) report that parents yelling at one sibling was gain control over others or to resolve conflict all create andpositively associated with the regularity of sibling argu- foster a social environment for… forms of family violence”ments. Stemming from a learning theory perspective, (Hoffman and Edwards 2004, p. 187). Taking the idea thatscholars contend that children who observe negative power differentials manifest family violence, this theoryexchanges in the family begin to mimic such behaviors in reasons that younger children who, in comparison to oldertheir own relationships (Ackers 1973; Hoffman and children, lack the advantage of physical strength, responsi-Edwards 2004; Hoffman et al. 2005). bility (i.e., power), and knowledge and female siblings who
134 J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140are also less likely to possess greater physical strength and use of any of these substances (0 = no, 1 = yes). To measurepower have a greater likelihood of sibling victimization delinquency, six items were scaled (Cronbach’s α=.760).compared to older and male siblings. Respondents were asked to indicate the frequency, ranging Social learning theory contends that behavior is learned from never to almost every day (0 = never, 1 = before butthrough imitation and reinforcement, leading to a series of not in past year 2 = a few times in past year, 3 = once ordefinitions favorable to the behavior (Akers 1973). As with twice a month, 6 = once or twice a week, 7 = almost everyfeminist theory, the social learning paradigm argues that day), in which they a) stole something from a store withoutbecause violence is rewarded with compliance and domi- paying for it, b) broke into a car, house, or other building,nance, those who engage in violence and aggression c) cheated on a test, d) sneaked money from an adult’sinternalize and utilize the advantages of such methods. wallet, purse, or other place, e) damaged or destroyed Learning theory applies to sibling violence in the sense property that does not belong to them, and f) skipped orthat “children who observe or experience such negative missed classes (not the whole day) without permission. Theexchanges learn behavior to imitate in similar situations, as scaled variable of delinquency, ranging from 0 to 30, waswell as rationales and motivations for using violence” dichotomized to indicate engagement in any form of(Hoffman et al. 2005, p. 1105). Siblings who perpetrate delinquency (0 = no to all items, 1 = yes to one or moremay have learned the methods and rewards of aggressive items). Items similar to these have been previously used tobehavior from witnessing or being subject to violence in the measure delinquency (for example, see Warr 1993). Finally,home. This theory highlights the importance of hearing or to measure aggression, respondents were asked to indicate ifseeing inter-parental violence and experiencing maltreat- they have hit someone with the intention of hurting themment by parents in explaining sibling aggression. As such, within the past 30 days (0 = no, 1 = yes).learning theory proposes that children who experience other Sibling violence is generally defined as “a repeatedforms of family violence are more likely to report sibling pattern of aggression directed toward a sibling with thevictimization (Hoffman and Edwards 2004; Hoffman et al. intent to inflict harm, and motivated by an internal2005). emotional need for power and control” (Cafarro and Conn-Cafarro 2005, p. 609). Physical aggression between siblings includes pushing/shoving, kicking, slapping/hit-Methods ting, biting, pinching, scratching, hair pulling, and throwing an object occur quite frequently (Kiselica and Morrill-Data came from a sample of Delaware public school Richards 2007; Lewit and Baker 1996), whereas psy-students who were administered the Delaware School chological sibling aggression includes “ridicule, whichSurvey. The survey is conducted annually as a census of involves both words and actions that express contempt,all eighth and eleventh grade classrooms in all public degradation, which derives the victim of a sense of selfschools within the state of Delaware. This study uses data worth…” (Whipple and Finton 1995, p. 137).from the 2007 school year, which included 6,788 eighth To predict occurrence of any sibling aggression, agrade students and 5,623 eleventh grade students. This is scale of five items was created (Cronbach’s α=.715).approximately 87% and 82%, respectively, of students Respondents were asked to indicate if a sibling hadenrolled in Delaware public eighth and eleventh grades in completed any of the following acts in the past 30 days:2007, and 99% and 98% of students in attendance on the a) verbal abuse, b) threats, c) shoving, pushing, or slapping,day of administration. The study utilized students who d) fights—punching kicking, and/or e) fights with the threatindicated that they lived with a sibling, leaving a total of weapon use (0 = no, 1 = yes). The scaled variable forsample size of 8,122 including 4,548 8th grade students and sibling aggression ranged from 0 to 6, and was then3,574 11th grade students. dichotomized to indicate whether respondents experienced any of these acts of aggression by a sibling (0 = no, 1 =Variables yes). To see the separate effects of psychological sibling aggression (verbal abuse; threats) and physical siblingTo measure substance abuse, three items were scaled violence (shoving, pushing, or slapping; fights—punching,(Cronbach’s α=.763). Respondents were asked to indicate kicking; fights with threat of weapon use) on the odds offrequency, ranging from 0 to 31 or more times (0 = none, substance use, delinquency, and aggression, the five items1 = less than one, 2=1 to 5, 3=6 to 10, 4=11 to 20, 5=21 were separately entered into the logistic regression models.to 30, 6=31 or more times), in which they used a) cigarettes, Note that respondents were asked if they have experi-b) alcohol, and c) marijuana in the past month. After enced abuse from any sibling. This is important because itscaling the three items, the dependent variable substance portrays a more accurate picture of the prevalence of siblinguse, ranging from 0 to 18, was dichotomized to indicate the abuse. Most studies either ask parents to detail frequency of
J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140 135sibling abuse or ask respondents about one specific sibling Table 1 Descriptive statistics (N=8122)(generally the one closet in age). Such studies are limited in n %that parents are not always present and may not be fullyaware of the violence that occurs between their children. GenderSimilarly, asking respondents to recount the actions of only Male 3,704 46.0one sibling may exclude other potential sources of sibling Female 4,343 53.5abuse (Goodwin and Roscoe 1990). Age Age1 is a categorical variable ranging from 12 years or 12–13 years 1,707 21.0younger) to 19 years or older. Gender is a self-reported 14–15 years 2,825 34.8dichotomous variable (1 = male, 2 = female). Child 16–17 years 3,383 41.7maltreatment is comprised of five items. Respondents were 18 years or older 199 2.5asked to indicate if a parent had committed any of the Racefollowing: a) verbal abuse, b) threats, c) shoving, pushing, Black 1,913 26.1or slapping, d) fights—punching kicking, and/or e) fights White 4,743 64.7with the threat of weapon use (0 = no, 1 = yes) during the Latino/a 670 9.1past 30 days (Cronbach’s α=.606). These items were Sibling violence 3,442 42.4scaled, ranging from 0 to 6, and then dichotomized to Sibling violence by typeindicate the presence of any form of child maltreatment (0 = Verbal abuse 1,360 31.3no, 1 = yes). To measure witnessing domestic violence, Threats 538 12.4respondents were asked the frequency ranging from never Shoving, pushing, slapping 1,406 32.4to almost every day (0 = never, 1 = before but not in past Fights—punching, kicking 778 17.9year 2 = a few times in past year, 3 = once or twice a Fights/threats with weapons 126 2.9month, 6 = once or twice a week, 7 = almost every day in Child maltreatment 1,805 22.2which they heard or seen violence between adults in their Witness domestic violence 3,895 48.0home. This was dichotomized to indicate the presence of Substance use 3,114 38.3witnessing domestic violence (0 = no, 1 = yes). Delinquency 6,799 83.7 Aggression 1,474 18.1ResultsDescriptive Statistics Bivariate StatisticsFifty-four percent of respondents were female. Moststudents (99.5%) were between 13 and 18 years. Nearly To estimate prevalence of sibling violence by age, gender,two-thirds of the sample identified as White (64.7%). Forty- and family violence, a succession of crosstabs weretwo percent of students reported experiencing some form of completed (see Table 2). Eta was used to determine effectssibling violence, with shoving, pushing, and/or slapping of age on sibling violence. Age was not significantly relatedbeing the most common type of violence experienced. to experiencing sibling abuse. Chi-square was used toSlightly more than one fifth of the sample (22.2%) admitted determine the effects of gender and other forms of familyto experiencing some form of abuse by parents. One in two violence on sibling aggression. Females were significantly(48%) respondents has witnessed violence between adults more likely report being victimized by a sibling than maleswithin the home. About one-third of students (38.3) have (χ2 =128.46, p<.01). Respondents who experience abuseused tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. A large majority of from parents (χ2 =821.12, p<.01) and respondents whorespondents (83.7%) reported delinquency, and a slightly witness adult violence in the home were significantly moreless than one in five reported past year aggression (18.1%). likely to report sibling violence (χ2 =485.74, p<.01).See Table 1. Similarly, to determine the relationship between sibling violence and students’ substance use, delinquency, and aggression, another sequence of crosstabs was conducted (see Table 2). Students who reported sibling violence were more likely to admit to using tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana1 (χ2 =16.27, p<.01). Those who experienced abuse by Analyses were conducted by grade level are not reported. Gradelevel indicates respondents’ age. Results for grade level are consistent siblings were significantly more likely to report delinquencywith results for age level. (χ2 =116.72, p<.01) and aggression (χ2 =435.12, p<.01).
136 J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140Table 2 Experience of any sibling violence (N=8122) sibling violence on substance use, delinquency, and n % χ 2 aggression is significant. For substance use, individuals who have been punched or kicked by a brother or sister areAge .09a 31.4% more likely to report using substances (Exp(B) = 12 or younger 10 50 1.314, p<.05), and those who have been threatened with a 13 788 46.7 weapon during a fight are 52.6% more likely to report using 14 1,100 46.3 substances (Exp(B) = 1.526, p<.05). 15 171 38 For delinquency, both psychological aggression and 16 730 38.1 physical violence significantly increase the odds of engaging 17 564 38.4 in delinquent behaviors. Experiencing sibling verbal abuse 18 68 38.6 increases the odds of being delinquent by 39.0% (Exp(B) = 19 or older 6 42.4 1.390, p<.05). Altercations between siblings that involveGender* 128.46 shoving, pushing, or slapping increase the odds of delinquent Male 1,321 35.7 behavior by 39.1% (Exp(B) = 1.391, p<.05). In altercations Female 2,093 48.2 in which a brother or sister threatens the use of a weapon, theChild Maltreatment* odds of completing an act of delinquency increases by Yes 1,305 71.6 119.2% (Exp(B) = 2.192, p<.05). No 2,137 33.9 Both psychological aggression and physical violenceWitness Domestic Violence* significantly increase the odds of being aggressive. Those Yes 2,141 55.0 who have been verbally abused by a brother or sister have No 1,301 30.8 18.6% greater odds of hitting someone with the intent ofSubstance Use* causing physical pain (Exp(B) = 1.186, p<.05). Being Yes 1,407 45.2 shoved, pushed, or slapped by a sibling increases the odds No 2,035 40.6 of aggression by 62.1% (Exp(B) = 1.621, p<.05); being punched or kicked results in 80.4% greater odds ofDelinquency* aggression (Exp(B) = 1.804, p<.05). As with delinquency, Yes 3,059 45.0 the odds of aggression are greatly increased in physical No 383 28.9 fights that involve the threat of weapon use (124.9%;Aggression* Exp(B) = 2.249, p<.01). Yes 959 65.1 Finally, Table 4 compares the odds of engaging in No 2,483 37.3 substance use, delinquency, and aggression, given thea Eta value reported experience of abuse. Experiencing verbal abuse increases*p<.01 the odds of engaging in delinquency more than it does for either substance use or aggression. Physical abuse between siblings, in all forms, increases the odds of aggression moreMultivariate Statistics so than it does for substance use or delinquency.To determine if age, gender, child maltreatment, andwitnessing domestic violence are predictive of sibling Discussionabuse, a logistic regression analysis was completed. Allvariables included in the model are statistically significant The objectives of this study were fourfold: first, to estimate(p<.05). With each year of age, a respondent’s odds of the prevalence of sibling abuse, second, to examine theexperiencing sibling aggression decrease by 12.6% (Exp(B) = relationship of sibling abuse to high risk behaviors of.874). Females have 54% greater odds of experiencing substance use, delinquency and aggression, sibling vio-abuse than males (Exp(B) = 1.540). Students who have lence, third, to explore the interplay of sibling abuse andexperienced child maltreatment have 300.5% greater odds other forms of family violence in predicting substance use,of experiencing abuse by a sibling compared to students delinquency, and aggression, and fourth, to test theoreticalwho have not experienced child maltreatment (Exp(B) = explanations for these relationships. Regarding the first4.005), and witnessing adult domestic violence increases objective, results indicate that sibling violence is experi-the odds of sibling violence by 106.4% (Exp(B) = 2.064). enced by 42% of respondents. Compared to previousSee Table 3. research on frequency of sibling violence, this estimate is Table 3 also presents results for a series of logistic low. Past findings indicate that about 65% of childrenregression models predicting outcomes. The effect of between the ages of 9 and 18 experience some form of
J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140 137Table 3 Logistic regression ofsibling violence, substance use, Sibling violencea Substance useb Delinquencyc Aggressionddelinquency, aggression Variables – Exp(B) Exp(B) Exp(B) Verbal abuse – .941 1.390* 1.186* Threats – 1.174 .933 1.117 Shoving, pushing, slapping – .892 1.391* 1.621* Fights—punching, kicking – 1.314* .939 1.804* Fights/threats with weapons – 1.526* 2.192* 2.249*a χ2 =1184.317, df=4, p<.05 Age .874* 1.352* 1.278* .894*b χ2 =675.253, df=9, p<.05 Gender 1.540* .819* .802* .695*c χ2 =569.568, df=9, p<.05d Child maltreatment 4.005* 1.549* 1.753* 1.617* *χ2 =814.937, df=9, p<.05 Witness domestic violence 2.064* 1.726* 2.655* 2.114**p≤.05sibling aggression (Goodwin and Roscoe 1990; Roscoe et violence (Fischbach and Herbert 1997; Glaser 2005;al. 1987; Steinmetz 1977), and that abuse is likely to Mullen et al. 1996; Payne 2002; Plichta 2004; Zlotnicksubside or end around age 12 (Buhrmester and Furman et al. 2006) are common predictors of substance use,1990). Our estimate may be lower because it only includes delinquency, and violence, our data show that sibling abuseabuse during the past month (compared to life time or past significantly and uniquely affects the odds of substance use,year estimates) and does not include a representative delinquency, and aggression. It is critically important,sample of children under 12. Note that shoving, pushing, through further research, to determine the nature andand slapping were the most common forms of sibling direction of these relationships in order to inform preven-violence reported, and violence by siblings occurred much tion and intervention efforts.more frequently than violence by parents. Both of these The results also suggest that the relationship betweenfindings are consistent with previous research (Goodwin sibling violence and aggression may be stronger than theand Roscoe 1990; Hoffman and Edwards 2004; Kiselica relationships between sibling abuse and substance use andand Morrill-Richards 2007; Lewit and Baker 1996). It is sibling abuse and delinquency. In line with social learninginteresting to note, however, that even in our sample of theory, the link between aggression and sibling abuse may bemiddle to late adolescents almost one in five youth report that through fighting back (i.e., maintaining power) andeither psychological or physical sibling aggression. Sibling escalating conflict, antagonistic, violent behavior is rein-violence affects a substantial proportion of youth—at all forced (Dunn 2005). Other forms of family violence haveages. It would be beneficial to include the prevention of been linked to later aggression (Simonelli et al. 2002). Muchsibling aggression in other family violence prevention of the concern surrounding the investigation of familyinitiatives. violence stems from its association with aggression (Downs Regarding the second and third objectives, sibling et al. 1992; Mullen et al. 1996). The data show the strongviolence is related to substance abuse, delinquency, and impact of sibling violence on the odds of engaging inaggression. Furthermore, the relationship between sibling aggression. This is another important reason why furtherabuse and each of these outcomes cannot be attributed to investigation is warranted, as aggression in schools andother relevant variables in the model. Although age, gender neighborhoods, as well as among adolescents in romantic(Piquero and Mazerolle 2001), and other forms of family relationships, has enormous social and economic costs.Table 4 Comparison ofpercentage of increased odds of Substance use Delinquency Aggressionengaging in substance use,delinquency, and aggression Verbal abuse – 39.0 18.6 Threats – – – Shoving, pushing, slapping – 39.1 62.1 Fights—punching, kicking 31.4 −6.1 80.4 Fights/threats with weapons 52.6 119.2 124.9 Age 35.2 27.8 −10.6 Male 18.1 19.8 30.5 Child maltreatment 54.9 75.3 61.7 Witness domestic violence 72.6 165.5 111.4
138 J Fam Viol (2010) 25:131–140 Regarding the fourth and final objective, this study finds This study faces several methodological limitations.that both feminist theory and social learning theory help First, items in the sibling violence scale were not definedexplain sibling violence. When applied to sibling violence, for students. For example, ‘verbal abuse,’ and ‘threats’ arefeminist theory asserts that because younger individuals and items that may have various meanings. With specificfemales lack power, they are more vulnerable to being explanations as to what these items actually entail, the datavictims of sibling violence than their respective counter- may have presented different results. For example, didparts. While age was not significantly related to sibling students include the presence of nontraditional forms ofaggression in bivariate analyses, it was in multivariate violence (i.e., cyber) by siblings?analyses. The age effect may have been truncated in the Second, the gender and age of the perpetrator isbivariate analysis because the majority students were unknown. Research shows that brother–brother sibling13 years or older. Sibling aggression is something that dyads and older–younger sibling dyads tend to be the mostsiblings are expected to “grow out of” as they acquire more violent (Cafarro and Conn-Cafarro 2005; Goodwin andcognitive, coping, and communication skills (Dunn et al. Roscoe 1990; Hoffman and Edwards 2004; Roscoe et al.1994). These skills allow siblings to replace physical 1987; Steinmetz 1977). Without knowing the gender or ageinteractions with verbal interactions (Goodwin and Roscoe of the sibling pairs, it is hard to determine gender and age1990). In addition, as younger siblings age, they become effects in their entirety. This has implications for conclu-more competent and independent. Around age 12, younger sions drawn on feminist theory. Third, and related, oursiblings require less nurturance and direction from older data do not allow us to examine whether respondentssiblings. This, along with increases in individual compe- accurately assess the rewards and/or punishments individ-tence, transforms the power/status structure of the sibling uals (parents/other siblings) receive for using violence.relationship (Buhrmester and Furman 1990). However, Conclusions based on social learning theory must beconsistent with previous studies, age was a significant interpreted with caution. Fourth, this study does not ask ifpredictor of violence between siblings in the multivariate victims of abuse are simultaneous perpetrators of siblinglogistic regression model (Dunn et al. 1994; Goodwin and violence. This information could present a more accurateRoscoe 1990). The significance of age in multivariate picture of sibling abuse. Considering that many studentsmodels may be due to the fact that when other variables are could have been the initial aggressor (and were hit back inaccounted for, the variation in age is unmasked. Regardless, retaliation or defense), the data may not fully capture themultivariate results are supportive of the feminist perspec- actual victimization rate. Finally, the causal processtive in that younger individuals who may lack physical delineating the relationship of sibling violence and negativestrength and power may be more vulnerable to abuse. The behaviors needs to be interpreted with caution. The datadata here also suggest that females are more likely to here do not clarify if sibling violence precedes substanceexperience abuse by brothers or sisters. This is consistent use, delinquency, or aggression. It is possible that thesewith Simonelli et al.’s (2002) findings, and supports the variables could produce sibling victimization rather thanfeminist perspective that females are more vulnerable to simply being a result of it.violence. Future research should further explore the relationship In accordance with social learning theory, students who between gender, age and sibling abuse to clarify inconsis-reported witnessing violence in the home or experiencing tent findings and further the development of theory. Theabuse by parents were substantially more likely to report temporal sequences of substance use, delinquency, andsibling victimization. Previous findings suggest that chil- aggression should be explored to determine if siblingdren who are victims of one form of abuse are likely to be violence is a cause or effect. As well, sibling abuse amongvictims of other forms of abuse (Edleson 1999b; Mullen et specific populations should be explored. Khan and Cookeal. 1996). In examining co-occurrence of intimate partner (2008) found that juvenile offenders engaged in moreviolence and child abuse, Edleson (1999b) reports that joint severe forms of sibling violence than the normal popula-partner abuse and child battering rates range from 30% to tion. Are certain groups of siblings more at risk for severe60%. While this study is not the first to link sibling sibling aggression? Race also needs to be explored.violence to other forms of family conflict (Brody 1998; Research shows that rates of domestic abuse vary by raceJenkins 1992; Noller 2005), it does contribute to the (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000). However, once socioeco-literature. Specifically, it establishes an empirical relation- nomic status is controlled, racial differences tend toship between sibling violence and other forms of family disappear (Sokoloff and Dupont 2005). Does siblingabuse. The contention that child victims of adult family violence vary by race too? And, if so, can this relationshipviolence are likely to experience other forms of familial be explained by economic factors? Another avenue thatviolence (e.g., intimate partner abuse) is further validated in future researchers may take is to further clarify the types ofregards to sibling violence. delinquency that are predicted by sibling violence. The
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