Bullying is a very real problem for children of all ages, but a study is suggesting that children with Autism, or those on the Autism Spectrum, are at an increased risk of being bullied. The bullying is more likely among peers and classmates, and even their own siblings, often resulting in social and psychological problems as they grow older.
The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, followed 231 children with ASD and just over 8000 who weren't on the spectrum from the age of middle childhood through to adolescence, Physicians Weekly reports. The study found that bullying among siblings reached their peak around the age of 11, and affected approximately 64% of kids with ASD while affecting less than half of the children who didn't have ASD. As the children got older the instances of bullying decreased and was almost equal between both groups. By the age of 14, the rate of sibling bullying with children with ASD had dropped to 36% while it dropped to 33% for those who were not on the spectrum.
"There is a decrease in sibling bullying involvement from the age of 11 to 14 years for both children with and without autism," Umar Toseeb, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of York in the UK, said. "But children with autism are still more likely to be involved in two-way sibling bullying," Toseeb said by email to Reuters Health. "And being involved in sibling bullying at age 11 years is associated with more emotional and behavioral difficulties at age 14."
Although the study shows that many children are affected by sibling bullying, it shows that those with ASD are affected more. The researchers feel that this disproportionate exposure to sibling bullying may have more lasting effects, long term and that these effects are felt even greater in those children who are subjected to bullying in the home and by their peers.
The study suggested that parents need to ensure they recognize when their children are engaging in typical sibling squabbles or when the behavior is more concerning. "Persistent conflicts between siblings may be indicative of sibling bullying and this should not be viewed as a normal part of growing up," Toseeb said.