The sibling subsystem is of central importance and a possible protective factor for children. Nevertheless, it remains surprisingly understudied and lacks any theoretical or conceptual framework. The current study explored the sibling subsystem in the context of child abuse (CA). Thorough thematic analysis was conducted on the narratives of 30 children referred to forensic interviews following suspected physical or sexual abuse by a parent. Aged 4–14, all had at least one sibling each and referred to this sibling during their interviews in the specific context of the CA they had experienced. Their narratives shed light on two dynamics that can characterize the sibling subsystem in the context of CA: compensation and spillover of the trauma into the sibling subsystem. They stress the centrality of the sibling subsystem in the children’s lives and the siblings’ role in the children's survival of CA. The current study’s findings emphasize the urgency of continuing to develop studies in this area, as they will likely contribute to both prevention and intervention efforts.
- Child Physical or Sexual Abuse
- Forensic Interviews
- Sibling Subsystem