Children exposed to family violence, behavioural adjustment and the quality of sibling relationships

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Lee, Jodi E. L.
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The present study explored the relationship between children's behavioural adjustment and length of exposure to violence as well as the nature of sibling relationships in families with a history of violence. Thirty-one families with a history of violence, including mothers and their two children, were recruited from a mid-sized Canadian city. The Child Behaviour Checklist (Achenbach, 1991) and the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire (Furman & Buhrmester, 1985) were completed by the mothers. The Sibling Relationship Interview (Stocker & McHale, 1992) was completed by both children. The first hypothesis investigated the correlation between behaviour adjustment and length of exposure to violence. Results indicated that older siblings' internalizing behaviours were correlated to length of exposure to violence and target sibling's externalizing behaviours were correlated to proportion of life exposed to violence. The second hypothesis proposed that siblings with more pronounced patterns of adjustment difficultieswould have less supportive and more antagonistic sibling relationships. Externalizing behaviours were related to high levels of conflict. Internalizing behaviours were related to high levels of warmth and conflict. Social learning theory was used to interpret the results. The use of children's reports on the sibling relationship was a strength of this study. Limitations included an ambiguity regarding the definition of violence and an absence of a screening mechanism for child abuse. Directions for future research include screening for other types of violent experiences and exploring supportive sibling relationships for children who have been exposed to domestic violence.