Siblings of children with chronic disorders: Family and relational factors as predictors of mental health


Objective This research aimed to provide new knowledge about the emotional experiences of siblings of children with rare disorders.

Methods Qualitative thematic analysis was conducted based on videotapes of 11 support groups for 58 siblings aged 7–17 years (Mage = 11.4 years, SD = 2.4) of children with rare disorders.

Results Participants described contradictory emotions in three main contexts: (1) implications of the disorder (knowledge, medical issues, prognosis); (2) consequences for family life (practical implications, limitations of the child with disorder, perspectives on the sibling relationship); and (3) consequences for social life (reflections about (ab)normality, reactions from others). Passive coping strategies were frequently described relative to active coping strategies. An emerging dilemma for participants was hiding versus sharing emotional experiences.

Conclusions Siblings’ emotional experiences are characterized by diverse and contradictory feelings. Interventions to promote emotional health in siblings of children with rare disorder should address this complexity.


Haukeland, Y. B., Fjermestad, K. W., Mossige, S., & Vatne, T. M.