A qualitative exploration of middle childhood sibling relationship quality within the context of intimate partner violence

Waninger, Kendra Nicole
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University of Delaware
The ways in which children are affected by intimate partner violence vary. Children often have siblings and are not alone in their experiences, perceptions, or adjustment to living in violent homes. Limited research exists on child sibling relationship quality within the context of intimate partner violence. This study utilizes a qualitative methodology that allows for an in-depth exploration of the experiences and perceptions of both mothers and children living in homes with intimate partner violence in order to gain insight into the child sibling relationship quality within this environment. Eleven families (11 mothers, 12 children ages eight to twelve years-old) participated in this qualitative, multiple case study. Using cross-case analysis, themes related to exposure to intimate partner violence and child sibling relationship quality encompassed the diverse exposure of children to intimate partner violence, children’s emotional appraisals of the violence, children’s behavioral responses to the violence, as well as the warmth and support, and the conflict in the child sibling relationships. The emotional appraisals and behavioral responses of children regarding intimate partner violence are intertwined with sibling relationships. Children are fearful, intervene during incidents, and display similar behaviors to the abuser. The sibling relationships in these families contain warmth and support, as well as some level of conflict. Siblings show protection and support for their brothers and sisters during everyday life and during incidents of violence. This study provides important insight regarding child sibling relationships within the context of intimate partner violence that can be used by professionals providing services to these siblings and families, as well as future researchers examining this topic.