Psychological well-being and family environment of siblings of children with life threatening illness

Lisa M. Humphrey, Douglas L. Hill, Karen W. Carroll, Mary Rourke, Tammy I. Kang, Chris Feudtner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: The psychological well-being of siblings of children with life threatening illness remains largely uncharted. Pediatric cancer research suggests that a supportive family environment may protect the psychological well-being of siblings. Objective: We hypothesized that (1) siblings of pediatric palliative care patients would show clinical/behavioral scores that were elevated but that rates of serious psychopathology would be comparable to the general population of children their age; and (2) higher family functioning scores would be associated with lower clinical scores and higher adaptive scores for these siblings. Methods: We conducted an observational study with families in which a patient receiving palliative care had one or more siblings between the ages of 6 and 11. Parents completed the Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) to assess the siblings' psychological well-being and the Family Assessment Device (FAD) to assess the family environment. Results: Twenty-four parents reported data for 30 siblings. Only three siblings scored in the clinical range on a BASC-2 composite clinical scale, and 11 siblings scored in the at-risk range on one or more composite scales. Higher FAD scores predicted significantly higher externalization composite clinical scores (7.54, 95% CI: 1.12, 13.97, p < 0.05) and significantly higher behavioral composite scores (7.88, 95% CI: 1.55, 14.21, p < 0.05). Discussion: Siblings of pediatric palliative care patients are not experiencing lower psychological well-being than the general population. The prediction that a positive family environment would be associated with higher levels of psychological health was supported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-984
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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