Psychological adjustment of siblings of chronically ill adolescents
Frohlinger, Mara Jil
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The quality of sibling relationships is one of the strongest influences on family relationships, and thus may impact satisfaction with family functioning for all family members. Despite this, very little research has been conducted on the psychogical impact of having an ill brother or sister among well siblings. Parental, peer and family relationship variables may be important contributors to psychological outcomes among siblings of chronically ill adolescents, however these variables have not been investigated together in well-controlled studies.;This study compared levels of depression, hostility and global symptomatology among two groups consisting respectively of 34 adolescent sisters of chronically ill and well males and females. The two groups were matched for age, sibling gender, subject birth order and age spacing between siblings. Subjects were primarily minority and from families with only one biological parent.;Results showed a different pattern of results for well and ill siblings. All sub groups of siblings of ill adolescents were at risk for depression and global symptoms, while among well siblings only older sisters of females were at risk. A combined effect of sibling illness status and gender/birth order on psychopathology was found such that older sisters of ill females were protected from some types of psychopathology, while the well comparison group of older sisters of females was the most vulnerable. Family satisfaction was related to psychological outcomes, however it did not differ based on illness status.;Sibling illness status was found to relate to global severity, and to be directionally related to depression. Peer social support, family satisfaction and sibling illness status were predictors of global severity and depression. For hostility, only peer support was a significant predictor, and the effect of family satisfaction approached significance. Hostility levels did not differ based on illness status.;Thus it appeared that sibling illness status and support/satisfactory relationships with both one's peers and one's family were both needed if a sibling is to achieve better psychological functioning in families with ill adolescents.