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Sibling conflict in SEND rose during lockdown

Conflict between siblings in special needs families increased during the first lockdown, a study published in the British Journal of Psychology has revealed.

More than half of parents and carers reported that their child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities was ‘picked on’ or hurt at least once by their sibling during the first month of lockdown, which increased to nearly three-quarters of children by the third month of lockdown.

However, the analysis found that the conflict wasn’t one sided. Four out of five young people with SENDs were also reported to be picking on or deliberately hurting their siblings throughout the first lockdown.

Dr Umar Toseeb, lead author, of the University of York, said: “Siblings are an important part of children’s lives. These relationships can have a positive effect on children’s development but they can also be characterised by conflict and bullying.  During the first UK lockdown school closures meant most children were spending almost all of their time at home with their family. We wanted to investigate if this prolonged confinement was associated with more conflict amongst siblings.”

A total of 504 parents and carers of a child or young person with SENDs took part in online questionnaires one or more times between 23 March 2020 and 10 October 2020.

Parents and carers answered questions relating to their SEND child about age, birth order, verbal ability, what sort of school they attend and what their specific needs are. The parents were also asked how often their children hurt and picked on each other.

Dr Toseeb added: “It’s not unexpected that spending long periods at home during lockdown meant that there were more sibling arguments and fights. In fact the study found that once schools had fully reopened for face-to-face teaching in September 2020 sibling conflict reduced. The scale of this problem, however, is a cause for concern as persistent sibling conflict is associated with poor mental health.  Future research should explore the longer-term impact of lockdowns on both children with SENDs and their siblings to provide evidence-based support for these families”.

Sibling conflict during COVID-19 in families with special educational needs and disabilities

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