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Aspergers Children Who Abuse Their Siblings


How can I help my youngest child age 4 cope with my 12 year old Asperger child’s sneaky aggressive behavior toward him? My four year old loves his older brother but is constantly being manipulated and abused. He does this very sneaky and tries not to get caught.

A typical example: My Asperger child will appear to cuddle with my child on the couch while he's secretly smashing the air out of him until the 4 year old screams. It's hard to watch my loving four year getting hurt every time I turn my back.


Research reveals that 53 out of every 100 kids abuse a sibling (higher than the percentage of grown-ups who abuse their kids or their spouse). What some children do to their sibling inside the family would be called assault outside the family. 

Here are some important facts related to sibling aggression. Researcher suggests that:
  1. A younger sibling who is very aggressive increases an older sibling's level of aggression.
  2. An older sibling who is very aggressive increases a younger sibling's chances of being aggressive too.
  3. If mothers/fathers show hostility in their family interactions, their kid’s level of aggression increases.
  4. Parental hostility related to economic pressures has an impact on kid’s aggression.
  5. Just having a sibling influences a youngster's level of aggression.
  6. Aggression runs in families.
  7. Although parental hostility is a risk factor for childhood aggression, marital conflict between mothers/fathers is not.
  8. Other family risk factors that increase the likelihood of childhood aggression are economic pressures, single parenting, violence in the home, and maternal depression.
  9. Boys are more physically aggressive in sibling relationships than girls, but girls can be just as aggressive in non-verbal ways.
  10. Sister-to-sister relationships have less fighting than brother-to-brother or brother-to-sister combinations.
  11. Having a nurturing older sister protects younger kids from becoming aggressive and even protects them from developing substance abuse issues, but having an overly aggressive older brother has the opposite effect.
  12. Kids tend to show more aggression toward siblings at younger ages, and then outgrow it.
  13. Kids learn how to be aggressive by watching their older brothers/sisters.

As moms and dads, we may be tempted to ignore fighting and quarrelling between kids. We may view these activities as a normal part of growing up. We say, "Boys will be boys" or "They'll grow out of it." However, thousands of adult survivors of sibling abuse tell of the far-reaching negative effects that such unchecked behavior has had on them as kids and grown-ups.

Sibling abuse, as all forms of human abuse, may be sexual, physical, or emotional:
  • Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, indecent exposure, intercourse, rape or sodomy between brother/sister.
  • Physical abuse ranges from hitting, biting, and slapping to more life-threatening acts such as choking or shooting with a BB gun.
  • Emotional abuse is present in all forms of sibling abuse. It may include teasing, name calling, belittling, ridiculing, intimidating, annoying, and provoking.

Kids often abuse a sibling, usually younger than themselves, to gain power and control. One explanation for this is that the abusive youngster feels powerless, neglected and insecure. He/she may feel strong only in relation to a brother/sister being powerless. The feeling of power kids experience when they mistreat a brother/sister often reinforces their decision to repeat the abuse.

How can you identify normal “sibling rivalry” versus “sibling abuse”? Here are some useful guidelines:
  • How does the abused sibling respond? Victims often respond to abuse from a sibling by protecting themselves, screaming and crying, separating themselves from the abuser, abusing a younger sibling in turn, telling their moms and dads, internalizing the abusive message, fighting back, or submitting.
  • How often does it happen and how long does it go on? Acceptable behavior that is long and drawn out may become abusive over time.
  • Identify the behavior. Isolate it from the emotions associated with it and evaluate it.
  • Is the behavior age-appropriate? Remember that generally you should confront fighting and jealousy even if you tend to think it is "normal."
  • Is there a victim in the situation? A victim may not want to participate, but may be unable to stop the activity.
  • What is the purpose of the behavior? If it tears down another person, it is abusive.

If you suspect abuse, it's important to act quickly to stop it. An effective parental response involves the following steps:
  • As a parent, you play a critical role in teaching kids how to mediate disputes without aggression. By setting rules and expectations for how your kids interact with each other, they are more likely to find ways to resolve their differences without aggression throughout their lives.
  • Be a good role-model of positive and esteem-building behavior.
  • Bring all kids involved into a problem-solving process.
  • Figure out alternative solutions to the problem.
  • Get enough fact and feeling information to assess the problem accurately.
  • Help kids to arrive at a child-set goal (goals set by moms and dads often become rules that kids will not follow).
  • How you handle aggression between siblings is critical. A common complaint among kids is, "He started it!" If you continually punish one youngster, and do not properly address issues with another youngster who could be instigating aggressive situations, you will likely breed resentment between siblings that could result in even more aggression. Assuming the older youngster is the aggressor could mean that you are missing a younger child's aggressive impulses and letting them go unchecked.
  • Minimize the violence your children see on T.V. and in the movies.
  • Reward sensitive, positive behavior among siblings.
  • Specify appropriate ways of acting and consequences should abusive behavior occur in the future.
  • State and restate the problem to make sure you understand it clearly.
  • The most important role you play with your youngster is that of a model for behavior. Your kids are more likely to do as you do, not as you say. If they see that you handle stressful situations by becoming aggressive or belligerent, they will learn this behavior. It is important to be aware of the behaviors you are teaching your youngster. Do you drive aggressively while screaming angry insults at other drivers? Are you rude or aggressively demanding toward others, such as restaurant or other service workers? Your kids learn through these interactions.
  • Work together to set up a contract which states the rights and responsibilities of each youngster.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Maggie said...

As always you provide awesome advice and encouragement to parent's of children with Aspergers! Thanks and God Bless!

rick said...

This article was one that we was very much needed. Your topics help with VERY functional advice. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

I will be reading any suggestions... I have a little similar issue with my son being aggressive towards his cousin. He's so nasty to her & she just loves him.

Anonymous said...

my son does the same thing to my 2 yr old daughter, I will also be reading up on this.

Anonymous said...

My oldest non aspie child does this to her younger aspie brother. Its been going on since I can remember.

Anonymous said...

I have a 13 aspie and 6 neurotypical and we battle the same stuff. It's tough because it's hard to know where to draw the line between normal sibling fighting and abuse. :(

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the sneaky behavior...

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I really was starting to think we were alone in this. The therapist actually told me to ignore the abuse since it was normal boy behavior! (We don't see the therapist anymore! )

Anonymous said...

My son does this at time not only to his younger brothers but even uses his aspergers to manipulate his teachers! Its a hard & blurry line, Whats 8 year old kid? Vs. Whats Asperger's? Grrrr! Happy to know as well, we are not the only ones who struggle with this!

aspiemom said...

My 12 year old Asperger's son is very aggressive towards his neurotypical (like that PC term!) brother. So much so that I wonder if he is capable of drawing the line. So far, he hasn't seriously hurt him, but has gotten close. At what point do you have to do something more serious as a consequence? We have done all of the suggestions. It only seems to be a temporary solution. A professional only tells you to do the same thing you have already mentioned, and gives you a list of activities to support the same things already listed.

Unknown said...

This was no help at all useless

Unknown said...

Please help, I just caught my 12 year old daughter choking my son who is 4. This is not the first time I've caught her being violent with him, I've done everything I can and at this point I don't know what else to do.

Quty said...

Squeeze his neck just enough to let him experience how uncool it is...

Unknown said...

I was psychologically abused for years by an autistic sibling 9 years older than me. He would regularly whisper nasty things to me so that no one else would hear, try to tickle me inappropriately etc but always when no one else was nearby to witness it. When I would complain/yell for help, our autistic father would charge into the room and I would get in trouble for making a noise (Dad was highly noise sensitive, and I only found out he was autistic in the last year - he is dead already). Mum would say that my brother didn't mean it, and so he got away with it for years.

Hannah said...

Everyday I'd hear the same three words from my autistic brother: You're fat. You're ugly. You're stupid. He didn't even try to hide it. He'd say it out loud whenever he wanted. He'd point knives at me near my arms and eyes and kick me in the stomach til I couldn't breathe. He always got away with it. Of course I'd retaliate, shoot some words back or kick him back. Or sometimes I'd just cry. He is 2 years older than me and stronger than me. The words are stuck in my head and they always will be. I tell my parents everyday how much he got to me and they constantly brush it off like it doesn't even matter.

Unknown said...

I am so sorry to read this.. I was looking for help bc my son is 11 and he is so mean to his 6 year old brother. I know he is going thru puberty, but yhat is not an excuse. If I can't get this under control now what will happen later in life.. I dont want my other kids feeling the way u do..

Unknown said...

I am having these issues as well. Our 5 year old ASD daughter is always randomly going after her younger sister. Even on the school bus she attacks her and scratches her face. It comes out of nowhere. This made sense because her father and I are having a very hard time with managing things. Causing arguments and I can imagine she does feel powerless. I had postpartum depression after her sister was born so it makes so much sense why she wouldn't much like her sister. It just breaks my heart. I feel torn apart. Thanks for the advice. :)

Unknown said...

I know this feed is fairly old, but someone please help me! My aspies son is almost 15 and running this home. He slaps his little sister across the face, beats on his little brother, bullies me relentlessly and when disciplined he literally doesn't know why and then it's all my fault! Everything is blamed on me. Even his father will tell my son, mom is crazy, you dont need help, maybe you should just come live with dad. His father is more of a problem for us then help. I'm alone, scared and honestly depressed. My son makes his siblings or myself cry EVERYDAY. He was the sweetest kindest most loving mommas boy until 13 when his dad told him mom was the reason for the divorce and mom is the reason they only get to see him every other weekend. Mind you my ex had an affair and still lives with the women. It's an absolute mental mind game at all times. Trying to work 2 jobs, raise 4 kids and dealing with an ex husband who causes more issues than not. I dont even know who my son is anymore. I give in all the time because I'm just too tired to fight all day everyday. We all walk on eggshells. I'm tired and broken.

Unknown said...

My older brother was also aggressive, and his open masturbation/habit of walking around at night naked has left psychological scars that run deep. I LOVE that the autistic community has made people more compassionate towards individuals with autism, but I am also weary of the number of lives that are sacrificed on their behalf. The psychological community is continually dismissive of the amount of abuse that parents and siblings suffer at the hands of individuals with autism. While it is certainly not the fault of the person with ASD, putting up with the abuse is also not an option. I have come to believe that, as a society, we need to create more opportunities for humane institutional care with appropriate parental rights. We can't always assume that parents are capable of handling their autistic children in their own homes.

Anonymous said...

This is a huge issue.

Traditional sensory therapists as well as EMDR might help your son. DBT and occupational therapists might help too.

Look at anything on the nervous system and regulation, including diet etc.

If it gets to this point it would be called Domestic Violence. If he does this to someone else he could be charged in the future. Theres also peer workers out there who can educate you and your family, because as much as he's the one with ASD > these issues are also traumatic and need trauma treatment too. It also means your family will need treatment too for the Domestic violence.

Anonymous said...

I literally do not know what to do anymore my autisc son who is 12 keeps being aggressive and is taking it out on his 5 year old sister constantly hurting her bullying her and threatening her it's getting worse I'm a single mum on my own I don't know what to do to try and protect her because there doesn't even seem to be a trigger . He is seeing a psychiatrist at the end off the month that is my last resort

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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