National Rehabilitation Hospital

An Exploration of Child and Adolescent Sibling’s Experience of Paediatric Traumatic Brain Injury

Heather Cronnin

This study explored the experiences of the sibling relationships of ten young people with a brother or sister with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Whilst research has examined outcomes following ABI in young people, and adjustment and family functioning from the perspective of the parents, little is known about the experiences of siblings.

A qualitative methodology using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used. Participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule designed to capture participant’s subjective experiences of their relationships within the family and specifically their perceptions of their sibling post-ABI.

Four master themes emerged from the analysis. ‘Living with trauma’ illustrated participants’ exposure to their sibling’s mortality subsequent to the initial trauma. ‘Living with loss’ reflected shifts in family relationships and loss of ways-of-being. ‘Life through the lens of ABI’ incorporated participants’ assumption of a hybrid parent-sibling role. ‘Managing loss and finding meaning’ drew on participants’ approaches towards resilience and coping.

These themes are discussed in the context of previous literature, in particular in relation to family systems theory and ambiguous loss. It is suggested that these findings may be useful in considering the salient issues for young people with a sibling with ABI. The consequences of these findings for clinical psychology practice, theory and future research are noted.

Final Report presented to the NRH Ethics Committee –  May 2009