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Disclaimer

These studies contain no personal opinions of mine. They are reported here in summary from research and experiments conducted by qualified professionals who are experts in their fields of study. The purpose is to continue to educate our communities using forums such as this. These postings are not intended to serve as any form of therapy. Seek qualified and licensed professionals if necessary.

Overview of Study

            The exposure to intimate partner violence( IPV) is widely acknowledged as a serious public concern, which affects millions of children around the world daily. A strong body of evidence has demonstrated clear negative effects of exposure on children, both short and long term. This study focused on IPV and what role siblings play in children’s adjustment and wellbeing. This particular study digressed from prior studies where the research to date was focused upon a single child within a family where IPV is present. The three main goals of this study is to compare the adjustment of older and younger siblings exposed to IPV, to describe and compare the quality of these sibling relationships from multiple perspective, and to investigate how sibling adjustment and relationship quality influence children’s adjustment. 47 sibling pairs and their mothers were recruited from the community. Mothers self-reported on their violent experiences using the Conflict Tactic Scale and also shared the length of time their children were exposed to the violence. In addition, observers assessed the quality of sibling interaction as part of this study.

Method

            A non-random sample of 47 families with a history of IPV was recruited from the community using local advertising. Families were included if at least 2 siblings of school age, 5-18, were willing to participate, all family members spoke English fluently, mothers self-identified as having a history of IPV, and mothers had received or were currently receiving counselling concerning abuse and were 35 years of age or older. 94 children participated in this study and they paired up as follows: 9 sister pairs, 18 brother pairs, 20 pair  mixes. Of the 94 participants, 62% of the mothers reported their children had received some prior counselling concerning IPV. However, details regarding the type or duration of counselling were not collected. Formal consent was provided by mothers and oral consent was provided by the children for this study. Mothers and children were interviewed separately by researchers. All families were provided $75 for the information they provided.

Mothers completed the Physical Aggression scale of Conflict Tactics Scale developed by Straus, 1979. This scale asked about violence within the past 12 months. Each violence behavior is rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 0 (never) to 6 (more than 20 times). 66% of the mothers reported that an intimate partner had directed violent behavior towards them. These violent behaviors include being pushed, grabbed or shoved, kicked, bitten or hit, beaten or threatened with a weapon.

Children completed one of two questionnaires. Those under the age of 14 completed the Child Depression Inventory developed by Kovacs, 1992. Those age 14 and above completed the Beck Depression Inventory developed by Beck and Steer, 1987. Each item is rated on a 3-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 2 (all the time).  Of the 82 children under age 14, 56% scored at or above the 90 percentile for depressive symptoms and resulted in an α=.86. Of the 14 children age 14 and older, 75% reported mild symptoms with an α=.75.

Another measure of self-esteem was done on the children based on their age. Children age 7 years and younger completed the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance. Ages 8-13 completed the Self-Perception Profile for Children and the older children completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. All the scores were collaborated and resulted in a coefficient alpha of .84.

The study conducted two more tests for quality of the sibling relationships and the observation of siblings. Both of these focused on the hostility levels as well and affection from older siblings towards younger siblings. The testers were looking for positive interaction, negative interaction or disengagement.

 Results

            The results indicated that adjustment between siblings was highly inter-related. On average, mothers reported sibling relationships less positive. Higher levels of sibling’s hostility, lower levels of sibling interaction and higher levels of disengagement each significantly predicted child adjustment. Sibling hostility played a stronger role in adjustment issues than sibling warmth. Older siblings displayed significantly more internalizing problems on an average than younger siblings. Younger siblings reported significantly more depressive symptoms and significantly higher self-esteem on average when compared to older siblings.

The quality of sibling relationship was compared as well. The results showed that sibling assessment of warmth and hostility was independent of one another. Results showed that warmth was rated more highly than hostility overall and that mothers rated the siblings relationship lower on both warmth and hostility than did the siblings themselves. Observers perceived significantly less negative interaction between siblings than either positive interaction or disengagement.

Discussion

            Sibling adjustment was highly related and internalizing and externalizing problems were correlated within and between siblings, replicating previous research. It is evident that sibling adjustments and wellbeing are closely intertwined. Sibling directly influences each other through modeling, as well as indirectly influencing each other. These perspectives can help account for sibling similarities and differences. This study shows the importance of using multi-informant approach that discriminates among different family members. It may be the case that maternal reports of child adjustment were affected by their own IPV experiences. Mothers may be more likely counterparts. In addition, maternal mental health issues such as stress and depression resulting from the violence can influence their reporting.

Strength and Limitations

            Some concerns about the study exclude parent-child relationship, which have been shown to influence child adjustment and the quality of sibling relationships. The severity of exposure to IPV was not assessed, nor whether children in the study were victimized by adults or other children. These are important factors that may have some influence adjustment and relationship. Another limitation is that the sample was very general and may have excluded families with greater severity of violence. In addition, majority of the mothers in the sample were low income single parents, which may also influence the scores. Finally, the study did not take into account gender temperament or access to social support or other extra family relationships that may have protected the children from potential maladjustment.

Reference

Piotrowski, C.C., Tailor, K., Cormier, D.C. (2013). Sibling exposed to intimate partner violence. Linking sibling relationship quality & child adjustment problems. Child Abuse and Neglect, 38, 123-134

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