If you’ve ever been bullied, you know how terrible it is. Bullies pick on everything – from your appearance to your financial status or even some little quirks of your personality. Scientists from the University of York conducted a major study and found that children with autism are more likely to be bullied by both their siblings and their peers, which means they are getting attacked both at school and at home.
The study included more than 8,000 children, more than 231 of which had autism. Participants had to answer some questions about how often they were picked on or hurt on purpose by their siblings and peers. Scientists found that by the age of 11 two thirds of children with autism have been picked on by their siblings – twice the rate of the children without autism disorder. This means that children with autism could not feel entirely safe at school or even at homes, often being bullied by their classmates and siblings.
By the age of 14 the rates of bullying declined in both groups. However, even at this age children with autism were much more likely to be bullied. Interestingly, children with autism were actually more likely to be involved in two-way sibling bullying – as a victim and a perpetrator. One of characteristics of autism is difficulty to conduct normal social interactions, which explains why these children face challenges when trying to bond with their peers and siblings. One of the reasons conflicts emerge is competition for parental attention. Children with autism need more care and attention, which makes their siblings jealous and competitive. This is why scientists decided to involve parents in this study as well.
Parents were asked about their children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties. Scientists found that children involved in sibling bullying were more likely to experience emotional and behavioural difficulties, regardless if they did or did not have autism. Bullying disproportionally affects children with autism, which calls for action. Dr Umar Toseeb, lead author of the study, said: “Parents should be aware of the potential long term consequences of sibling bullying on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Persistent conflicts between siblings may be indicative of sibling bullying and this should not be viewed as a normal part of growing up”.
Parents are able to stop the bullying in their houses. They need to pay more attention to the wellbeing of their children and put effort into recognizing emerging conflicts between siblings. Those with autism should be especially taken care of to make sure they are feeling ok hanging out with peers and with siblings.
Source: University of York