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J Fam Psychol. 2005 Dec;19(4):619-24.

A retrospective study of risk to siblings in abusing families.

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Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK.


Relatively little research has considered the risk to siblings within maltreating families. The sample in the present study consisted of the 795 siblings from a cohort of 400 "index" children who had been referred to police child protection units in England for abuse and/or neglect. In 44% of families (valid cases), the index child was scapegoated, in 37% maltreatment was nonspecific to all siblings, and in 20% maltreatment was specifically directed at some but not all siblings. Scapegoated children were more likely to be older and to experience physical or sexual abuse, whereas younger children and index child referrals for neglect, emotional abuse, or mixed abuse were associated with risk to some or all siblings. Parental difficulties and family stressors increased the risk of maltreatment to all siblings. There was no evidence of increased risk to stepsiblings or children with difficulties, suggesting that the special victim model has limited application.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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