Effects of Sibling Relationships on Childhood Trauma
Childhood trauma is becoming well talked about in the media and more thoroughly studied on its longevity effects to adulthood. Yet in trauma for children, there is a need to study the sibling dynamic, the relationships that get severed far too often for several avoidable problems. Siblings or close familial relationships to support, bond or stick by the traumatized child or go through it either in the home, foster care or on their can do better than alone. Sibling bonds are powerful with an emotional connection and vitally important both in childhood and adulthood. As siblings present as a kid’s first peer social group, and most spend more time with one another than with acquired peers. Kids learn social sharing and how to navigate conflict, like with learning to negotiate with their siblings. Sibling relationships can provide a critical source of stability throughout a kid’s lifetime and most likely to be their longest and strongest relationship experienced. So long as it is given a chance to form and not be separated.
In the amount of data on the effects and number of siblings in foster care or separated in foster care is limited still. Based on the National Center of Youth Law there are estimates that nationwide more than half of the children in foster care have one or more sibling in foster care as well. Even going as far as estimating 75 percent of such kids are placed apart from these siblings. In California at the Center for Social Services Research in more recent years came up with data recognizing the vital sibling bond “In October 2004, 67 percent of the child welfare population had at least one sibling in out-of-home care, and 34 percent of these children were placed apart from all of their siblings.” (YouthLaw) As an example of the California Child Welfare Indicators Project (CCWIP) a collaboration between Berkeley and California’s Social Services department. The project provides policy-makers, child welfare workers, researchers, and the public have direct access to customizable information on California’s entire child welfare system. This is one way of allowing us to start seeing the sheer number of siblings and families separated and or in the system still or aged-out.
In both, the importance of why sibling relationships need to happen more in foster care is shown by the positive research findings and the push in policy enactments for kids in the process of being separated or already are foster care. In researching sibling relationships this paper goes into analyzing the buffer effect these relationships have on adverse childhoods and adulthoods. Reviewing an assortment of studies on sibling relationships and their findings of the effects on childhood and adulthood outcomes will demonstrate the interventions needed improving or creating for such people affected by such trauma and separation.
Separation from a sibling loses a part of the child’s identity, support system, and well-being. As Laura Collier Portner’s research on sibling relationships by parental relationships influence showed examples of how caregivers affected whether there were established healthy sibling relationships formed or distorted by adolescences. “From the parenting styles involving high levels of high Care, low Control and high Care, high Control consistently reported more positive sibling relationships in adulthood than participants in the low Care, high Control.” (Portner) With this finding on parental relationships and how it affects siblings in childhood, there was a noticeable difference in the adult sibling Affect scores. Between high Care, low Control and high Care, high Control groups drew notice to the correlation between controlled behavior and/or denial of autonomy from the parental figure which in turn caused negative feelings towards a sibling in adulthood, regardless of the care provided from the parental units. “The pattern found by the current study underscores the detrimental properties of intrusive, controlling behavior by primary caregivers in the absence of care.” (Portner) These differences made by controlling and/or denied actions by the parental units make a new dynamic if there were trauma involved and the damage that would have invoked on the siblings to even bond or fall apart with time. Finally, on this study were a few significant associations on positive sibling relationships had positive social adjustments in adulthood, low levels of depressive symptoms compared to the conflicted siblings shown signs anxiety, depressive states, and aggression.
Once parental units are taken out of the picture and the influence over siblings is placed into the foster care authority the matter of the relationship is debated if even worth holding onto. Herrick’s research on the nurturing of sibling bonds in foster care discusses both the balancing act social workers must work around or with and the ways the system could work in favor of it instead of causing obstacles. Sibling relationships are very important not just for the siblings but for the system to help them recover and become stable adults. For siblings in out-of-home care at least 26 states there are compelling policies for child welfare agencies to consider in placement and permanency planning. Practices of maintaining sibling contact when children are placed separately and some of these states even require visits after placements with siblings to keep siblings together and keep the considerations of the dynamic being in a child’s best interest. Herrick’s brings up studies have shown that many children believe that they have lost their identity of themselves when they are separated from their brothers and sisters and their grief, guilt, anxiety, and confusion at this loss is aggravated by separation in foster care. “…a child’s self-identity is in part determined by what he or she sees as his or her role in the world. When a child has a role where another person relies on him or her, this relationship can provide the child with a sense of responsibility, a clear self-concept, enhanced self-esteem and serve as a source of social support.” (Herrick’s) This in Herrick’s research is a profound implication that foster parents and social workers try to stop, without realizing, the protective factors it is to a traumatized child or sibling group. As a protective factor for children, it is a strong implication for social workers weighing the option of separation to consider the developed caregiver role they have is not too much responsibility but can be balanced. Herrick as well addresses the stability and continuity foster kids have when maintaining sibling relationships. In which having that maintained sibling contact/relationships gives a predictable or constant to that trauma victim during a new move or home placement with or without their family members. There is a need for such separation to have frequent visiting and bonding time to avoid causing their relationships to wither into permanent estrangement. As well the unconditioned or familial love that having a good sibling relationship can improve one’s self. “Furthermore, some authors have noted that sibling relationships can be sources of love and long-term relationship stability even in the midst of unpredictable and temporary placement situations. Permanent, unconditional relationships are essential components of a child’s growth and development since they afford a child the opportunity to make mistakes and still be loved.” (Herrick) Unconditioned love from a united sibling placement creates a better self-esteem, self-worth, and stability in their concepts of healthy reliable relationships. In having an ascribed role to be a sibling than an earned role creates a validation regardless of their ups and downs in life. These relationships provide hope for the crucial worth in a child’s developing mind to motivate commitment and act as a buffer against new or old adverse events in their life.
In Seale’s, Always Together, research brings into the discussion of interventions to improve trauma affected or improve sibling relationships to promote its potential buffering effects on them. In cited studies, there was an implementation of regulating skills, communication in conflicts and cooperation between each sibling. As well there are evaluations in such interventions’ cost and logistical in favor of continuing such treatments given the benefits it had on both intact and non-tact sibling dynamics. “Results of a pilot study of 834 foster children in Georgia indicate that, compared to siblings who received “traditional foster care services” (p. 85), those children who received the NTF intervention not only were placed with their sibling group but had increased stability in their placement with fewer disruptions. They were also more likely to be placed in their home counties and had higher rates of reunification and placement with kin. This rigorous yet financially feasible intervention strategy appears to yield positive benefits for co-placed siblings in foster care.” (Seale) In sibling relationships, this discussion of interventions despite the cost and manpower needed to create, uphold and maintain such an operation to improve the bond between traumatized or split apart by unforeseen events.
Based on the Children’s Bureau research that explores intervention strategies, and resources to assist professionals in retaining connections among siblings. “Even when professionals believe that maintaining sibling relationships is in children’s best interests, laws and policies must be in place to support these connections, both in foster care and when permanency is achieved.”(CWIG) In intervening the first actions are in the state and countries own rules it has enacted for the possibility, likelihood and opportunity to keep siblings together and connected through the out of home care. If such policies as gender, max occupation, and sexuality keep kids apart from one another will amount to internalizing such traits of themselves or family members in a negative or distancing fashion for the sibling relationships. For any sibling going through out of home care, there is the threat of their state’s priority on their together placement being non-existence to not enforced heavily.
Next is the intervention placed on the caseworker, social worker, advocate of such children to listen to their own stories. To be able to understand that child’s experience from their own perspective grasps the importance of maintaining connections whenever possible. Where intervening done at this level will highly avoid the negative adjustments caused by being separated. Like running away, behavior problems, poor mental health or socialization, and lower academic performance than for those placed together. If just one person with authority in their sibling placements just finds out how they feel about their family and what can ease their guilt, anxiety, and fears it impacts the years to come. “For agencies, placing siblings in the same home can streamline some processes such as visits by caseworkers. Also, caseworkers are relieved of the obligation to arrange and carry out visits among siblings if they are already living together. Communication between birth and foster families is also made more manageable when there is only one foster family involved.” (CWIG) Great examples in providing direct and faster lines of communication in these fields begin with the logic at same house placements. In the professionals involved in sibling separation or unification have to be prepared, informed and aware of the positive effects keeping sibling in contact so long as it is the healthiest outcome for them.
Lastly, the intervention process needs to begin with the dismantling of previous attitudes and limitations on separating siblings. We can change policy, government and the people in the fields to be aware of the impacts of familial bonds. Most of all there is a need for more trauma-informed people to make these actions have a chance in correcting misinformed assumptions from taking root. “In a study of foster parents’ and workers’ views on placing siblings, over half of the foster mothers 55% did not believe it was easier for a foster child to fit into the foster family if placed with siblings. As explained by one foster parent, “the siblings depend on one another too much and shut other people out”. Approximately 45 % of foster parents believed that children placed with siblings were easier to foster because they felt more secure having their siblings with them.” (CWIG) This is a major point in which fostering homes see the sibling relationship as a crutch, a way to keep out reality and deliberately choose to tear kids apart thinking it will heal them faster and stronger than being ‘coddled’ by the dynamic. Such myths and assumptions need public awareness, informed professionals and more research into the sibling bond is well short and long term.
For limits affect the larger groups or more ranged siblings with more risk to delay, disrupt or leave them separated for their entire youth. “In many, if not most, cases of sibling separation, siblings are separated because the system cannot accommodate the best interests of children rather than for any child-centered reason. Such as size of the group, age gaps, needs, placement type, behavior, policies/procedures, adequacy resources/supports and agency rules for a maximum number of children who can be placed in a foster home.” (CWIG) The preservation of these ties takes a mass of effort, time and still in many states lack funding to keep up the work, so there a limit is made. Whether it’s from overpopulation in a foster home, caseloads for workers in months demands, sexual abuse or religious affiliations pushing out the bad apples. There are interventions on all levels that have to be combated by informed, funded and empathetic voices that can keep siblings bonded for longer or more quality times together as they adjust and develop still.
Effects of Sibling Relationships on Childhood Trauma