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Child Care Health Dev. 1995 Sep;21(5):321-31.

Sibling empathy and behavioural adjustment of children with chronic illness.

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Psychiatry Research, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.


This study investigated the relationship of healthy siblings' empathy to the psychosocial adjustment of children with a congenital heart disease (CHD) in 28 sibling dyads aged 3.5-11 years, as well as the perceived quality of sibling interactions, reported by mothers and children with illness. As in previous studies, children with CHD were reported to have more behaviour problems in the clinical range than either siblings or normative populations. On the basis of a task unconnected with illness issues, siblings were assigned to a high or low empathy group. Children with illness, but not their mothers, saw the siblings with high empathy more positively than those with low empathy. However, the adjustment of the children with illness did not differ between high and low empathy groups. Findings suggest the need to seek children's points of view when studying psychosocial effects of paediatric conditions.

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