Foster children's sibling relationships in middle childhood.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis explores children's sibling relationships in middle childhood, particularly in relation to looked after children, with the aim of obtaining an 'insider view' from the children's perspective. Foster children's current relationship qualities and processes were considered in the context of their past family experiences and environments, their sibling relationship history, and their expectations of their siblings in the future. The aim was to extend our current understanding of the nature and quality of sibling relationships. The findings are intended to assist social workers and others with a responsibility for assessing children's needs and making decisions about their welfare.
Foster children's perceptions of their sibling relationships had two separate but intertwined threads running through: a relationship dimension focusing on the quality of the current siblings relationship, and a family and kinship dimension focusing on siblings as life-long key family and kin. In comparison with the community sample, foster children's sibling relationships were more extreme, reflecting children's disrupted close relationships and adverse family experiences. Relationship aspects, referring to power and status, and sibling attachment relationships, were most salient for foster children. Siblings retained an importance to the foster children, at the level of family and kinship, regardless of the quality of their relationships. They expected their siblings to be part of their lives in adulthood. Because of foster children's smaller networks of other supportive relationships, than was the case for the children in the community, their siblings were even more important to them. For some foster children, particularly where contact with parents was terminated; their siblings were their only family. Based on the findings, a framework was developed for understanding sibling relationships in the context of foster children's adverse family experiences and disrupted close relationships.
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