Children with autism are bullied both by kids at school and their siblings at home, a British study claims.
The major new research involving 8,000 children shows that even when they get home from school, autistic kids have no respite from bullying.
The University of York study showed that by the age of 11, two thirds of autistic children reported being involved in some form of sibling bullying, compared to half of children without the condition.
The researchers also found that children on the autistic spectrum are more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of sibling bullying compared to those without autism.
The study used data from The Millennium Cohort Study to investigate 8,000 children, more than 231 of whom had autism.
The children were asked questions about how often they were picked on or hurt on purpose by their siblings and peers and how often they were the perpetrators of such acts.
By the age of 14 there was a decrease in being picked on overall, but autistic children were still more likely to be involved in bullying in the home, whether being bullied or being the one picking on a brother or sister.
Long Term Consequences
Lead author of the study, Dr Umar Toseeb from the Department of Education at the University of York, said: “Children with autism experience difficulties with social interaction and communication, which may have implications for their relationships with siblings.
“From an evolutionary perspective, siblings may be considered competitors for parental resources such as affection, attention and material goods.
“Children with autism might get priority access to these limited parental resources leading to conflict and bullying between siblings.”
According to the research, those children involved in sibling bullying, irrespective of whether they had autism or not, were more likely to experience emotional and behavioural difficulties both in the long and short term.
The team are calling for more resources to help children with autism and their parents identify and deal with bullying behaviours in the home, particularly earlier in childhood.
Dr Toseeb added: “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.”