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Why Children With Siblings Are More Likely To Be School Bullies

Updated on December 28, 2012
gmwilliams profile image

With over eight years of writing and researching experience, Grace specializes in debunking commonly held myths about family psychology.


The Influence of Siblings in Bullying Behavior

Having siblings undoubtedly increase the likelihood of competition for parental attention physically, emotionally, and financially. Children with siblings often indulge in upmanship and other manipulative behaviors among each other to get parental attention. Furthermore the more siblings a child has, the more prevalent sibling rivarlry and infighting occurs.

In multichild families, children bullying each other is rife. There are studies authenticating and substantiating that siblings frequently bully each other. This is a natural occurrence because in multichild families there is often competition for parental resources. Children with siblings are often more competitive as they must constantly be in survival mode. Children in multichild families are fiercely territorial and are acutely aware of their own personal space within the family social dynamics.

Now you ask what is the correlation of having siblings to being a bully. Well, children with siblings often have to compete with each other for the attention of their parents. Children in multichild families oftentimes view another sibling as an adversary regarding obtaining parental attention. Children in multichild families must share their parents resources whether it is physical, financial, and/or emotional. Children in multichild families do not have the luxury to spend individualized time with their parents as only children do.

In multichild families, because of the proximity of sharing the same familial environment, children engage in verbal and sometimes physical banter with each other. Sometimes this goes to the extreme where siblings bully each other to ascertain who is the more dominant one and worthier of parental attention. Studies show that oldest and/or middle children are more likely to bully their siblings because they believe that might makes right. Furthermore, many oldest and middle children use power play in relationship to their siblings.

Oldest children because of their ordinal position and their physical size can easily dominate and manipulate their younger siblings. Oftentimes, oldest children, especially in medium large to very large families, are often ignored and overlooked by their parents in favor of their younger siblings. This often leads to resentment and jealous on the part of the oldest child towards his/her younger siblings.

Many oldest children take out their frustrations in this regard on their younger siblings whom they perceive is the problem. Furthermore, since the average oldest child is often punished more harshly for the same infractions that a younger sibling gets away with, this breeds more resentment which results in the younger sibling becoming the object of bullying by the older sibling. Oldest children believe in asserting their power with their younger siblings. This behavior can range from mild dominance to outright bullying. Studies further authenticate that it is de rigeur for older siblings to bully younger ones.

Middle children are also more likely to become bullies because they are constantly fighting for parental attention as well as their older and younger siblings. Middle children often have no individualized identity of their own and is always known as the other sibling. The average middle child in families are often lost in the crowd and are nonentities. This results in middle children become more assertive and aggressive in their identities in order to become more visible.

Youngest children are not alien to the art of bullying their siblings. They often bully their older siblings by being mentally and psychologically manipulative. Youngest children are very adept at using the art of emotional blackmail to get older siblings to do their bidding. For instance, a youngest sibling can routinely threaten to tell his/her parents on an older siblings in order to get his/her needs met. Youngest children are master at the art of gamesmanship.

Yes, children who have siblings are more manipulative and cunning towards their peers because of their familial environment. Siblings are often two-faced and conniving towards each other in order to gain parental favor. Children with siblings are more likely to routinely use their friends, classmates, and schoolmates because this is what they have learned in their familial environment.

In the sibling environment, children learn how to barter and play mind games to see who will either win or lose. The familial pecking order of being alpha and/or beta begins with siblingship. The sibling environment is a breeding ground for bullies because siblings are often in close proximity to each other and oftentimes the relationship can be negative. From siblings, children learn the art of upmanship and how to be the good sibling in order to curry parental favor. In multichild families, there is also intense competition which results in either verbal, emotional, and/or physical bullying. Children often repeat the behaviors which is in their familial enviroment and transfer those behaviors to the classroom and beyond.

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams


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    • gmwilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To Rena, this is common knowledge. The sibling environment creates bullies because there is upamanshp and gameplaying and other kinds of catty behavior in that type of environment. All the children I knew in schools who were bullies had siblings and most came from large families. Those are the children who are always fighting. Contrast that with groups of only children- they play together without fighting and are totally civilized. Thank you, Rena for your input. Onlies are never bullies!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree with you, gmwilliams. Most of the bullies that I know have siblings, and even bullied their own siblings. I was also watching the R&B groud Debarge on the Dr. Drew Show and James Debarge (Janet Jackson's ex) said that his older brother Bobby Debarge bullied him and abused him emotionally, physically, and even SEXUALLY.

    • profile image

      Dean InAldershot 

      7 years ago

      Hi, I agree with this totally. In fact I would have liked to read and learn more about it. To describe a situation 'the perfect storm' and perhaps others can add. Two sisters with a boy each, living together in same house. Younger boy evil, provoking and malicious to older boy (8). Sister with younger boy leaves home peace restored. One year later Older boys mother killed and older boy moves in with younger boy and mother. Younger boy age 5. Older boy bullied and beaten by his aunt, but grows up being brightest hard working etc. Younger boy un ambitious and manipulative, getting friends to beat & bully older boy. Older boy remains single, relationships good but never commits. Fears loss and insecurities. Remains loyal to aunt who now is co-dependant to her own yahoo son who develops history of crime, alcohol abuse, self centered and inherently lazy / dependant. Has serious anti social personality issues, and becomes an expert in malicious lies and abuse towards older boy as well as abusive, controlling and swearing towards mother (only when alone). Mother has become submissive, withdrawn and willing victim. And so it goes on. But despite many letters and 'chats' with social services who believe its normal, the younger bullying boy is so convincing, he is seen as a victim,a roll in which he has perfected his whole life that even the few close friends to all are also convinced. This is a true story and continues today. AT

    • mkvealsh profile image


      7 years ago

      I do agree with you that when children are left to raise their own siblings, these behaviors do make themselves manifest. I have seen this myself in some homes. It depends on the type of parenting. It doesn't have to be this way.

      However, I can appreciate that each has his own opinion.

    • gmwilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To frugalfamily: How true, how true.

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      It is a case of children raising children. If there is enough adult supervision either in the home or on the playground, then these natural behaviors will be corrected. Thanks for the thought provoking hub.

    • gmwilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To mkvealsh: Children with siblings are more likely to be bullies because of their familial environment. Siblings constantly play upmanship and manipulative games with each other on a constant basis. Scratch a school bully and you will find it that she/he has siblings. Sibling culture is de rigeur to creating bullies. This is a fact of life. The truth does hurt!

    • mkvealsh profile image


      7 years ago

      This one actually made me laugh. If children behave this way, it is because of a lack of love and discipline in the home. When parents spend the right kind of time with their children, it won't matter whether there is one child or ten. I have six children, and there is no bullying, blackmailing, or tattling allowed. My children love each other fiercely and would defend each other to the death.

      I can understand why some might believe these concepts, but they just aren't factually true.


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