The Sibling Relationship: The Effects of Chronic Illness on the Quality of Sibling Relationships


Caitlin Burkwist

Faculty Mentor(s)

Katy Tenhulzen (Family & Consumer Sciences), Amy Claridge (Family and Consumer Sciences)


Children with chronic illnesses have been studied for the psychological effects of their illness, such as quality of life, social functioning, and coping. The siblings of these children have been minimally studied, resulting in inadequate knowledge of the effects a child’s chronic illness has on this underrepresented population. This study will examine how childhood chronic illness impacts the sibling relationship. Increased understanding of the challenges and needs these siblings have will influence the different interventions and support that is currently being utilized for this population. Furthermore, this study aims to identify ways to improve these siblings’ relationships by contributing more data on this subject to the field of study. This will be accomplished by the use of the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire that was created to explore different sibling relationship qualities (Furman, 1968). Parents of both healthy and sick children will be asked to fill out the questionnaire, asking them to rate certain aspects of the relationship that their children share on a 1 through 5 scale, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. The questionnaire will focus on conflict and warmth aspects of the relationship. Results from the two groups will be compared in order to understand ways in which having a sibling with a childhood chronic illness impacts the sibling relationship. This thesis will be completed with Professor Katy Tenhulzen and Dr. Amy Claridge, organized in accordance with the American Psychological Association guidelines, and will occur mainly in the Summer, Fall, and Winter of 2020/21.

Keywords: Siblings, Relationships, Chronic illness


3 thoughts on “The Sibling Relationship: The Effects of Chronic Illness on the Quality of Sibling Relationships”

  1. Compelling and relevant study! My only suggestion is to define each of the aspects you are studying (warmth, conflict, power/status and rivalry) to ensure the audience knows what you mean with each of these terms.

  2. Caitlin- I really enjoyed this presentation. I think that this is a very important field to have more research and awareness, as sibling relationships are typically not discussed when a child is diagnosed with a chronic illness (in my experience). I was diagnosed with a chronic illness as a pre-teen with two younger sisters, so I personally would love to see future research done on the typical relationships when the chronically ill child is the oldest sibling!

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