First Advisor

Stephanie Wahab

Date of Publication

Winter 3-14-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research




Sibling abuse, Child welfare, Brothers and sisters, Family violence



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 205 pages)


Sibling violence is a pervasive, yet poorly understood and substantially underreported phenomenon. Currently recognized as the most common form of intra-familial abuse, various estimates suggest that 30 percent or more of children in the general population experience severe acts of violence inflicted by a sibling each year.

Given that many young people in the child welfare system experience the family conditions associated with abusive sibling violence, recent publications have implored child welfare to embrace the notion that it is a form of child maltreatment. Practitioners and policymakers have yet to reach agreement on what constitutes physical or emotional abuse between siblings, and the perspectives of young people with lived experience of abuse are largely absent from research and scholarship.

I designed the study, grounded in Critical Realism, to increase understanding of how sibling violence manifests in child welfare, contribute to theory development, and identify actions to protect children from harm. Based on in-depth interviews with eight foster care alumni, I offer a refined definition of sibling violence and four family conditions associated with sibling violence in child welfare. The findings also supported a systems-based theory reflecting four stable family member roles. My recommendations seek to leverage the infrastructure of the child welfare system while taking into consideration the limitations imposed by neoliberal social and economic policy.


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Persistent Identifier

Included in

Social Work Commons