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Arch Dis Child. 1986 Mar;61(3):278-83.

Adjustment to the death of a sibling.


Despite the recent increase in interest in terminally ill children and their families and the post death adjustment of parents, there has been little research examining the adjustment and self concept of surviving siblings in such families. This paper discusses the results of a preliminary descriptive study of 28 children (from 14 families) whose brother or sister had died of cancer between 18 and 30 months previously. Behaviour checklists were completed by parents and teachers and self concept scales administered to the children. A lengthy semistructured interview was carried out, and measures of parental adjustment were gathered. A high percentage of children were found to be exhibiting emotional or behavioural difficulties, or both, and the results indicated that low self esteem was common. Parental and child adjustment were not found to be related inter se, nor did they seem to relate to the child's self esteem. Thus for many children the loss of a sibling might cause long term distress. Further, many children who did not manifest overt difficulties perceived themselves unfavourably in comparison with either their ideal or their dead sibling.

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