School Experiences of Siblings of Children with Chronic Illness: A Systematic Literature Review

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Abstract

Problem:

Siblings of children with chronic illness have unique experiences that can affect their school functioning, such that they may miss ongoing periods of school, experience difficulties with schoolwork or experience changes in their peer and teacher interactions. This review provides an overview of these siblings' school experiences.

Eligibility criteria:

Six databases (Medline, PsychINFO, CINAHL, ERIC, Embase and The Cochrane Library) were systematically searched for studies examining the school experiences and peer relationships of siblings of children with chronic illness, as well as school-based interventions for these siblings. Studies were included if they were published in or after 2000 and were published in English.

Sample:

We identified 2137 articles upon initial search. From these, we identified 28 eligible studies examining the school experiences of > 1470 siblings of children with chronic illness.

Results:

Three key themes were identified throughout the reviewed articles. The literature described 1) the psychological impact on siblings at school; 2) decreases in school attendance and academic functioning, and; 3) changes or perceived differences in peer and teacher interactions. Siblings value teacher and peer support, and this support may contribute to better sibling school functioning.

Conclusions:

Many siblings are socially resilient, yet overlooked, members of the family who may present with psychological, academic and peer related difficulties at school following diagnosis of a brother or sister with chronic illness.

Implications:

Future research is needed to further delineate the sibling school experience to better facilitate the development of targeted sibling support interventions within the school environment.

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