Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brothers And Sisters Of Abuse Victims Often Help Cover Up Or Even Commit Abuse, Study Suggests

Date:
March 6, 2008
Source:
Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters
Summary:
Authorities often fail to recognize or treat the physic damage suffered by siblings in families where only one child is abused. In chilling anecdotes extrapolated from cases, the study chronicles how parents can force siblings to become either emotionally numb or hostile toward the abuse victim.

In many cases, when abusive parents with multiple children target just one child for emotional or physical cruelty, authorities often remove the abused child from the home and return the non-abused siblings.

Related Articles


But brothers and sisters of abused children can suffer lifelong emotional scars from helping parents conceal the abuse or, in extreme cases, from being forced to participate in torturing their siblings, according to a study published in the current issue of the Journal of Emotional Abuse.

While psychologists have repeatedly studied the lifelong emotional carnage of untreated abuse victims, scant attention has been paid to their siblings, according to author Jane Hollingsworth, a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of the Child Abuse Program at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.

"Many children survive by becoming callous to the suffering or even torture of their brothers and sisters," Hollingsworth. "Those children require therapy, but don't get it."

The article, co-authored by Hollingsworth and Joanne Glass, a child abuse social worker, distills what these clinicians have learned handling hundreds of cases at the hospital's Child Abuse Program.

The King's Daughters program gathers forensic evidence for police and prosecutors in jurisdictions throughout Virginia and also provides counseling to victims. in dozens of cases throughout their careers, Hollingsworth and Glass have seen parents who focused all their abusive rage on one child, a "scapegoat," as they term it.

In chilling anecdotes extrapolated from cases, the study chronicles how parents can force siblings to become either emotionally numb or hostile toward the abuse victim. "The coldness of the calculated torment of children detailed in these case histories is so disturbing that it is easy to overlook the effects on siblings," the study observes.

In one case, Francine (not her real name), a first-grader, was locked in a nine-square-foot closet for eight weeks. She was fed only dry cereal, water and bread.

"She could not lie down except in a very cramped position," the study relates. The abuse of Francine "escalated into beatings with a wire antenna... The children were encouraged to harm their sister."

When the therapist spoke to members of the family "all the children agreed that John, the brother who had once taken pity on Francine and released her briefly, was the mother's chief assistant in tormenting his sister."

In the vast majority of cases, brothers and sisters of the abused child are returned to the home without treatment. In cases such as this, Francine would be treated, and John would be ignored.

Children such as John "have been taught to be callous, even cruel, to their sibling," said Glass. "Deliberately depriving children of the chance to love a brother or a sister is emotionally abusive. The message to these siblings is that it isn't safe to identify with their brother or sister."

Untreated, John may suffer an "empathy deficit," the inability to feel empathy for the targeted child and possibly others, a hallmark characteristic of both abuse victims and perpetrators.

While researchers have documented the chaotic lives of untreated abuse victims, the authors could find little research documenting how child abuse affected the lives of brothers and sisters of scapegoated children.

The study offers a guide to identifying cases in which siblings of scapegoated children are at risk and urges therapists to identify and treat these collateral victims.

They also urge researchers to investigate whether the psychic damage to siblings plays out in the dysfunctional lives common to untreated abuse victims.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters. "Brothers And Sisters Of Abuse Victims Often Help Cover Up Or Even Commit Abuse, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305163224.htm>.
Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters. (2008, March 6). Brothers And Sisters Of Abuse Victims Often Help Cover Up Or Even Commit Abuse, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305163224.htm
Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters. "Brothers And Sisters Of Abuse Victims Often Help Cover Up Or Even Commit Abuse, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080305163224.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins