When Sibling Rivalry Turns into Abuse

October 16, 2019

New Jersey DCPP lawyer counsels clients when sibling rivalry turns into abuse.Sibling rivalry has been around since biblical times, but what starts out as innocent competition between brothers and sisters can evolve into abuse when jealousy crosses the line between harmless actions and cruelty. The relationship between siblings is one that stretches from cradle to grave. Parents die, children grow up and move onto their own lives, but siblings remain brothers and sisters from the beginning to the end of life.

Many siblings have fond memories of growing up with each other; childish pranks, claiming who’s the favorite, and gentle teasing can build strong bonds. When this type of relationship becomes toxic, brothers and sisters can experience mental, emotional, and physical abuse that leave lifetime scars and fractured relationships. Some parents may view the behavior as a normal part of growing up in a family with multiple siblings, but when these behaviors are taken to the extreme, a child becomes a victim of abuse.

Common Factors in Sibling Abuse

A sibling relationship can become abusive for many reasons, but the most common factors in sibling abuse include the following:

  • Similar personalities clash
  • Significant personality differences can lead to arguments and tension
  • Lack of personal space, such as that which comes from sharing a bedroom or being made to take younger siblings on social engagements
  • Competition for a parent’s attention or approval
  • Jealousy that stems from partiality or preferential treatment from parents
  • Resentment between siblings
  • Provocative behaviors and exposure to sexually explicit materials or experiences can lead to sexual abuse of siblings
  • Violent discipline from parents can promote violence between siblings
  • Alcoholism or substance abuse in parents or older siblings
  • Poor supervision of underage children
  • Lack of compassion or empathy from parents or siblings
  • Unaddressed emotional or mental disorders, such as bipolar, ADHD, and conduct disorders

Types of Sibling Abuse

Sibling rivalry can include a wide variety of physical, emotional, and mental types of abuse, such as:

  • Insults and name calling
  • Threats of violence
  • Violent hitting, pushing, biting, pinching, or punching
  • Emotional abuse that includes belittling, embarrassing, and humiliating a sibling in front of others
  • Detachment and neglect
  • Stealing personal items such as money, clothing, or gifts
  • Fierce competition in academics or sports
  • Purposeful manipulation and intimidation
  • Telling devious lies about a brother or sister to parents, siblings, or friends
  • Intentional and premeditated cruelty

Symptoms of Sibling Abuse

Parents need to keep a close eye on their children for signs of sibling abuse to protect all children in the family. Symptoms can include:

  • Irrational fear of a sibling
  • Changes in behavior
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, or marks on the body
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Nightmares
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior or knowledge
  • Withdrawn from the family
  • Lethargy
  • Low self esteem

Parents who recognize symptoms of sibling abuse early can put a stop to the behaviors and get their children the psychological help they need to heal before the need for intervention by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

New Jersey DCPP Lawyer Theodore J. Baker Advocates for Child Safety

If you need legal counsel for a DCPP issue, call a New Jersey DCPP lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker at 856-210-9776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our Cherry Hill, New Jersey offices serve clients throughout Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Voorhees, and South Jersey.

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