Boys exposed to familial violence, including conflict between siblings, become increasingly aggressive toward their peers at school, and this aggression is associated with greater levels of alcohol and drug use over time, a new study by a University of Illinois researcher suggests.
While familial violence more directly influences girls' alcohol and drug use during adolescence, it seems to do so independently of aggressive behavior such as bullying and fighting, according to the study, which was published online recently in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.
Bullying and school violence expert Dorothy Espelage led the research, which indicated that verbal and physical aggression between and among siblings may be as detrimental to children as exposure to interparental domestic violence. However, few researchers, particularly in the U.S., have comprehensively examined family violence by including aggression between siblings in their studies, focusing instead on the impact of inter-parental violence alone.
"There's been a growing consensus that family violence is a training ground for peer aggression and associated risk behaviors such as substance abuse," said Espelage, who is an educational psychologist in the College of Education. "However, awareness of the impact of sibling aggression on bullying has lagged behind other types of family violence. It is imperative that researchers investigating the family context of bullying and substance abuse examine not only violence involving parents but also that involving siblings."