SSHRC research grant will support Canada's first study of adolescent sibling conflict
August 30, 2023
Canada has national studies of intimate partner violence, elder abuse, and child maltreatment, but there’s never been a national study of sibling conflict. Until now.
The Canadian National Study of Adolescent Sibling Conflict, Aggression, and Bullying will be directed by Dr. Joseph Michalski, Professor of Sociology at King’s. Dr. Michalski is the recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant in support of this work.
“Sibling conflict is arguably the most common form of domestic violence,” says Dr. Michalski. “It’s also the most under-researched. It’s often seen as inconsequential - as kids just being kids.”
Dr. Michalski has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of experts to carry out the collaborative study. He will be working closely with co-principal investigator and co-director, Dr. Geneviève Bouchard, Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Moncton.
“Dr. Bouchard has done previous work on sibling bullying, looking at it from a psychological perspective,” Dr. Michalski says. “I thought it would be a good marriage of our two disciplines, and when I reached out to her, she was excited to join.”
Also joining as a co-investigator is Dr. Faye Mishna, Professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, cross-appointed to the Department of Psychiatry, at the University of Toronto. Dr. Mishna’s research interests include adolescent bullying and cyberbullying. “We will draw on her expertise to look at aspects of sibling aggression and bullying,” says Dr. Michalski.
Dr. Corinna Jenkins Tucker, Professor Emeritus of Family Studies at the University of New Hampshire, and Dr. Don Kerr, a Professor of Demography at King’s, complete the research team.
Dr. Michalski explains that the population-based study will look at all types of sibling conflict – from everyday disagreements to more serious acts of aggression. “Our research will look at two different groups,” he says. “We’re going to be studying youngsters aged 12 to 17, with their parent’s approval. And then we’re going to ask a cohort aged 18 to 24 to reflect on their experiences with their siblings.”
The study is designed to do more than just fill the gaps in basic research. “Sibling conflicts are widespread. Universal, really,” Dr. Michalski notes. “We’re trying first to describe and explain the main conflict resolution strategies that siblings tend to use with each other during adolescence.”
The team will then examine different risk factors that may lead to more extreme forms of physical aggression and bullying.
“We’re also going to be looking at the immediate and longer-term impacts of sibling aggression and bullying on psychological well-being, overall health, and social development,” he says.
In addition to increasing academic understanding of sibling conflict, Dr. Michalski notes that the ground-breaking study will include the development of a public education campaign as well as a prevention program that can be used by families, in schools, and in communities across Canada.
Dr. Michalski has taught at King’s since 2003, where he has served as the Chair of the Department of Sociology (2011-2015) and as Associate Academic Dean (2016-2019). He teaches numerous courses mainly in the area of violence, including Violence in Cultural Perspective, Family Conflict and Violence, Hate Crimes, and the Sociology of Terrorism. Hist most recent book is titled An Integrated Investigation of Family Violence.