Childhood Sibling Abuse Common, But Most Adults Don't Remember It That Way, Study Finds

August 18, 1997

CHICAGO -- If told the story of a child who was kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or choked, the words that would come into most people's mind are "child abuse." But when the victims (and perpetrators) of such aggressive acts are siblings, they tend to be perceived differently. That's the finding a new study presented by researchers Carol D. Wilson and Mary Ellen Fromuth, Ph.D., at the 105th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in Chicago.

The Middle Tennessee State University researchers had 202 college students with siblings fill out questionnaires about themselves and their families as well as scales designed to assess verbal and physical aggression within their parental and sibling relationships, the amount of childhood emotional abuse that occurred between them and their siblings and some aspects of their current relationships (excluding siblings and parents).

A large majority of the participants (65 percent) reported that they had experienced very severe physical abuse, such as being kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or choked at the hands of their siblings and 60 percent reported inflicting severe physical abuse upon a sibling. Seventeen percent reported receiving injuries, with four percent reporting seeing a physician and two percent reporting being hospitalized due to the injuries. Yet only 21 percent considered themselves to have been physically abused as a child by a sibling. Thirty-two percent, when specifically asked, reported having been emotionally abused by their siblings.

Presentation: "Characteristics of Abusive Sibling Relationships and Correlations with Later Relationships" by Carol D. Wilson and Mary Ellen Fromuth, Ph.D., Middle Tennessee State University., Murfreesboro, TN, Session 5017, 9:00 AM, Tuesday, August 19, Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, River Exhibition Hall.

(Full text available from the APA Public Affairs Office.)

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 151,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

American Psychological Association

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