Sibling relationship pattern in the context of abuse and neglect

Witte, Susanne/Fegert, Jörg M./Walper, Sabine (2020):
Sibling relationship pattern in the context of abuse and neglect. Results from a sample of adult siblings.
In: Child Abuse and Neglect, H. 106, S. 104528

Background Siblings take care of each other and provide comfort and support. However, the sibling relationship is often also characterized by conflict and rivalry. Accordingly, the sibling relationship can be described by four patterns: harmonious, hostile, distanced, and emotional-intense. The sibling relationship pattern (SRP) depends on the sibling constellation, but also to a large extent on the family environment. Surprisingly little research has focused on the effects of child maltreatment on the SRP. Objective This paper investigates the impact of maltreatment on the SRP during childhood. Participants and Setting 4568 adults provided information about their adverse experiences and SRP while growing up. Methods Multinomial logistic regression analyses were calculated to identify unique predictors for different SRP. Results The number of different types of maltreatment predicted a hostile SRP. A low number was associated with a harmonious SRP. Considering the specific influence of types of maltreatment, emotional abuse was predictive for the hostile and the emotional-intense SRP compared to the distanced and the harmonious SRP. Emotional neglect was predictive for either a distanced or a hostile SRP compared to a harmonious or emotional-intense SRP. Conclusions Child maltreatment influences the SRP in childhood. It increases the likelihood of a hostile and less harmonious SRP. However, for some types of maltreatment, especially in the absence of emotional abuse or emotional neglect, exceptions occur. Further research needs to untangle dynamics between siblings throughout childhood. For practice, the findings warrant the need for specific interventions to improve the sibling relationship in cases of child maltreatment.