Exploring Sibling Relationships and Familial Supports for Bullied Male and Female Young Children

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Child and Family Studies


Alice S. Honig


Childhood Bullying, Family Support, Relational Aggression, Sibling Relationships

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Education


This exploratory study focused on the social relationships of elementary and middle school-age children (7-12 years) who experienced various forms of bullying and relational aggression by their peers. This study investigated both self and family perceptions of a bullied child's experiences with peers, and also explored possible supportive strategies of family members toward a young bullied child. Research has shown that children often require one or more types of support to help counter the negative effects of bullying and relational aggression (Bowes, Maughan, Caspi, Moffitt, & Arseneault, 2010; Ladd & Burgess, 1999). Therefore, examining the supportive roles of individual family members (primarily a sibling) seemed a logical next step in learning more about formal and informal supports for children who are teased and tormented by their peers. Literature has shown a lack of research when it comes to studies on sibling support in bully-victim situations (Gass, Jenkins & Dunn, 2007; Ostrov, Crick, & Stauffacher, 2006; Stauffacher & DeHart, 2006). An objective of this research was to use in depth interview techniques with regard to the bullying in order to 1) help the bullied child discuss his or her own unique experiences of being teased and picked on by peers, and to 2) identify possible supportive strategies provided by immediate family members, specifically a sibling, following these events.

The hypothesis was that a sibling would have the cognitive ability to decenter (Piagetian Stage Theory), and thus be able to understand the needs of, and find ways to be supportive of, the target child. For this study, 28 sibling dyads, as well as a parent, were interviewed. There were significant gender differences and similarities in regard to the types of bullying reported, as well as discussions relating to family support. Results from this study have value in the fields of psychology, education, child development, family studies, and child and family therapy.


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