Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 2049–2056 | Cite as

Surviving Siblings’ Illnesses, Treatments/Health Services over 13 Months after a Sibling’s Death

  • Dorothy A. BrootenEmail author
  • JoAnne M. Youngblut
  • Rosa M. Roche
  • Carmen L. Caicedo
  • Timothy F. Page
Original Paper


Two million children experience sibling death annually and have problems that require clinical intervention although few receive such help. Effects on surviving siblings’ mental health has been well documented, however their physical health has not. This study described surviving siblings’ illnesses, treatments/health services at 2, 4, 6, and 13 months post-sibling death. The 132 children (76 girls, 56 boys, M 10.6 years, SD 3.43); 30% Hispanic, 51% Black, 26% White were recruited via hospital ICUs and published obituaries. Using a longitudinal design, parents reported types and numbers of surviving siblings’ illnesses, treatments/health services, and dates post-sibling death. Most of the 207 illnesses and 674 treatments/health services occurred in the first 6 months post-sibling death. While girls had more illnesses (131) than boys (76) and Hispanic children had more illnesses than White or Black children, these differences were not statistically significant. Girls accounted for 66% of the treatments/health services and boys 34%. There was no significant difference in treatments/health service use by gender of the children (F = 1.00, p = .32). Hispanic children had significantly more treatments/health service use than Black children (F = 6.81, p = .002). Sibling death affects surviving siblings’ physical health. Study data document the importance of monitoring the health, treatments and health service use of surviving siblings especially in the first 6 months after a sibling death, regardless of the child’s gender. On average, Hispanic children had greater health service use, which may warrant greater attention.


Children’s illnesses Sibling death Sibling bereavement Child death Children’s treatments/health services 



This study was funded by grant # R01 NR012675 from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research. The research reported does not reflect the views of the NIH or NINR.

Author Contributions

D.A.B. and J.M.Y. designed and wrote the study, analyzed the data and drafted the results. R.M.R., C.L.C., and T.F.P. collaborated in the design of the study and in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accord with the ethical standards of the Florida International University and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual parent participants and assent from all participating surviving siblings included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy A. Brooten
    • 1
    Email author
  • JoAnne M. Youngblut
    • 1
  • Rosa M. Roche
    • 1
  • Carmen L. Caicedo
    • 1
  • Timothy F. Page
    • 2
  1. 1.Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health SciencesFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social WorkFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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