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Is Sibling Bullying Destroying Peace at Home? Bullying Re-Defined (so we can better stop it).

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

As a clinical psychology doctoral intern, I chose to focus my study on bullying. Working with children and families, I saw that sibling bullying was a significant part of the discord parents deal with but parents did not recognize it as bullying. Looking back at my own childhood, I realized I too did not recognize bullying that happened to me nor did my parents.

Why? I realized that parents, myself, and children typically consider bullying that is the overt, aggressive type - shoving, pushing, name calling. But there is another form of bullying that goes very much under the radar.

So, I was inspired to re-define bullying to explicitly include this hidden form of aggression as passive bullying in my dissertation. Why does defining it matter? Because I discovered that without a definition, we do not recognize the aggression and then, because it continues unabated, it continues to wreak havoc in the home.

So, lets define it. If parents, children, clinicians can recognize it, then we can make the choice to stop it and respond more effectively to children (or possibly ourselves) who are engaged in it, either as the aggressor and/or the target.

Here is my definition (this definition is copyrighted so, if you would like to use it, you are welcome to do so and I ask that you please cite my name - thank you)!


For a behavior to be bullying, the behavior needs to be a behavior pattern of the person

bullying and the intent is self-serving (done for one’s own gain) at another’s expense.

There are two forms of bullying:

1) Aggressive Bullying

The behavior is direct

The behavior is overt

What usually comes to mind when people think of bullying.

Because it is done in the open, it is easily identified.

Involves doing something.

2) Passive Bullying

The behavior is indirect

The behavior may be covert

The act, the real intent, and the aggressor are disguised behind a mask of the plausible and/or benign; may even appear kind or helpful.

No overt indication that the aggressor is trying to act against someone, when, in actuality, that is the intention.

May literally involve not doing something.

What are your thoughts, feelings?

I invite you to share your comments here or with me personally!

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