More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Sibling aggression may be precursor to dating violence
May 20, 2004

Belligerence among brothers and sisters can lead to violence later in dating relationships, according to a new study of Florida college students.

"Perpetrating sibling violence had the greatest impact on perpetrating dating violence," said lead author Virginia J. Noland, PhD, of the University of Florida. "Parents should know that sibling violence is not without consequences and sometimes the consequences are severe."

The findings appear in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

Noland and colleagues asked the students about both physical assault and psychological aggression involving parents, siblings or dating partners. Three-fourths of the students said a brother or sister had pushed or shoved them or that they had done so to a sibling.

Males experienced more sibling violence, but women reported more dating violence, both as victims and as perpetrators.

Noland said the context of female-on-male violence is unknown. Women may be more willing to report using a violent tactic with a date without specifying whether the violence was defensive or offensive. Violence by women against a male date also lacks the societal stigma of the opposite dynamic.

In any case, Noland said, violence is much more accepted among both genders today than in the past. The climate of violence in some families may be reinforced by external violence, whether experienced in school or seen on television.

"In the media, it's as common today to see a woman hitting a man as a man hitting a woman," she said.

Even psychological violence takes a toll over time, Noland said - being called fat or ugly or stupid gets incorporated into a negative view of one's self.

The researchers found that males reported more violence with their siblings than females, reflecting existing thinking about such conflicts. But relative age proved more important than gender. Children closer together in age experienced higher levels of violence. Sibling violence apparently peaks when the oldest child in a pair is between 10 and 14 years old. It lessens as children spend more time outside the home with their peers.

Parent-to-parent violence also proved to be less important than expected, Noland said. Instead, the effect of parent-to-child violence on sibling conflict was much more significant.

Noland said the findings emphasize the danger of corporal punishment, which she said sends the wrong message - that it's OK for big people to hit little people.

"Memories of parent-to-child violence experienced by the child supersede memories of parent-to-parent violence that was merely observed," she said.

"We learn from the behavior of people important to us, especially power figures. Children who experience corporal punishment may do it to their younger siblings and eventually to others."

For researchers, Noland said, the next step is to look into the importance people place on violent behaviors to see which is worse, verbal or physical, and to understand the context in which aggressive conflict tactics are used.

Noland VJ, Liller KD, McDermott RJ, Is adolescent sibling violence a precursor to college dating violence? Am J Health Behav, 2004;28 Suppl 1:S13-23



My older sister hitted me a lot when i was younger... And now i think about hurting people a lot at school.


This is an interesting topic. Before my son was dx'd with BP, he was incredibly violent with my daughter, to the point where I feared for her safety. Even now my son is prone to hitting, pushing, throwing things are her. My daughter is a fairly aggressive preschooler and I'm wondering if this is why. I've always put it down to the fact that she has an older brother and they play pretty hard. What do you think?

Actually she is more than aggressive with everyone. She has gotten into trouble at school and isn't beyond hitting/kicking me or my boyfriend when she's out of control.
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