As the oldest child and only son, my brother grew up feeling like the mini-man of the house. As older brothers often do, he imagined himself as a stand-in for dad and tried to assert authority over my sister and I whenever possible.
Unfortunately, my brother’s idea of authority involved a lot of bossing around and name calling. While he was rarely physically aggressive, his behavior most definitely could have been classified as bullying.
While my mom was always there to set him straight and send him to his room when things got out of hand, she was often exasperated by his desire to dominate my sister and I. But as it turns out, his tendency to run roughshod over his younger siblings wasn’t all that unusual.
A new study out of Italy finds that kids with older brothers are more likely to be bullied at home than kids with older sisters. And even when older sisters do bully, they do it for completely different reasons than their male counterparts.
The study involved 195 children ages 10 to 12 whose siblings were no more than four years younger or older. What they found was that older brothers were not only more likely to bully younger siblings, but were motivated to do it simply because they were older. Sisters, on the other hand, bullied based on the quality of the relationship with the sibling.
In other words, big sisters bully because they hate you. Big brothers do it because they are older than you.
Study author Ersilia Menesini says that this is likely due to the differences in the way boys and girls are raised.
It’s likely that older sisters are raised to be responsible and protective towards their younger siblings. Older brothers are more likely to be hierarchical and seek to dominate these relationships and maintain this with daily bullying.
I don’t think my mother would agree that she raised her kids that way. In fact, she did everything she could to curb my brother’s desire to be the Alpha dog. How about your kids? Does your older son bully the little ones?
Image: Aislinn Ritchie/Flickr
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