What are the experiences and perceptions of healthy siblings of children/young people with a long term condition? An Umbrella Review

One of the earliest literature reviews exploring the impact of illness on the siblings of children with long term illness described siblings as a ‘population at risk’ (McKeever, 1983, p. 210). Since that time siblings of children with LTCs have been the subject of a modest but ongoing body of research.

Some of the described difficulties facing healthy siblings include anxiety, sadness, activity restrictions, problems with peer relationships, a lack of information, and changes in family roles that contribute to increased family conflict (Karayağmurlu et al., 2021; van Langenberg et al., 2016; Velleman et al., 2016). Researchers have described how healthy siblings may experience loneliness, worry about the prognosis of their sibling as well as experience stress related to the LTCs impact on daily family life (Haukeland et al., 2015).

Other findings, however, suggest that siblings’ levels of depression and quality of life are like those of peers without a chronically ill sibling (Velleman et al., 2016). These mixed findings are possibly explained by range in outcome measures, the long-term condition of the child and attributes of the sibling under study.  Despite these varied and contradictory findings researchers do agree that having a sibling with a long term condition has potential to impact on the wellbeing and quality of life of the healthy sibling and as a group deserve more attention from health care researchers.

A preliminary search for existing Umbrella Reviews in CINAHL, Google Scholar and Ovid was undertaken. To the best of our knowledge an umbrella review on this topic had not been conducted. Therefore, the aim of this review is to examine and summarise the existing research syntheses on the experiences and perceptions of healthy siblings of children with a long-term condition.

Related articles

  • Haukeland, Y. B., Fjermestad, K. W., Mossige, S., & Vatne, T. M. (2015). Emotional Experiences Among Siblings of Children With Rare Disorders. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 40(7), 712-720. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsv022
  • Karayağmurlu, A., Coşkun, M., Pekpak, E., Akbayram, T. H., Karayağmurlu, E., Öğütlü, H., & Akbayram, S. (2021). The assessment of quality of life, depression and anxiety in siblings of children with cancer. Turkish Journal of Oncology, 36(1). https://onkoloji.dergisi.org/text.php?&id=1181
  • McKeever, P. (1983). Siblings of chronically ill children: A literature review with implications for research and practice. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 53, 209-218. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.1983.tb03366.x
  • van Langenberg, T., Sawyer, S. M., Le Grange, D., & Hughes, E. K. (2016). Psychosocial Well-being of Siblings of Adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa. Eur Eat Disord Rev, 24(6), 438-445. https://doi.org/10.1002/erv.2469
  • Velleman, S., Collin, S. M., Beasant, L., & Crawley, E. (2016). Psychological wellbeing and quality-of-life among siblings of paediatric CFS/ME patients: A mixed-methods study. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 21(4), 618-633. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359104515602373

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The protocol for this umbrella review was registered on Prospero (Registration number CRD42023395704)