Long-term consequences of sibling abuse Part 1

Problems with self-esteem

Virtually all the victims of sibling abuse may experience permanently low self-esteem which they tend to carry with them throughout their lives. When adults abuse children, research shows that these children tend to feel unwanted, unloved, inadequate and inferior to others. And the children who have been exposed to sibling abuse are experiencing the same thing. They may also feel an inner helplessness that makes them feel that they lack the ability to solve emerging problems or that they lack the skills necessary to achieve the future they want. The feeling of powerlessness can be so overwhelming that the victim becomes almost apathetic for a long time. It is also the common for survivors to continue blaming themselves for the mistreatment they went through in childhood, although it was nothing they could have done to stop it then.

Sibling abuse often leads to a very poor self-esteem. Especially those who are victims of sexual sibling assaults tend to continue feeling worthless in adulthood, combined with feelings of shame and guilt. This is probably connected to the fact that they often blame themselves for what happened, even though there was nothing they could have done to avert it. This is especially common in cases where the parents claim that the sexual abuse from the sibling perpetrator is the victim’s own fault. This can in turn result in the survivors abstaining from all sexual contact whatsoever or becoming promiscuous instead.

Delayed emotional development and social skills

It is also common that children who have been subjected to sibling abuse, suffer from a delayed emotional development. The reason for this, is that the emotional development stops in children who have been traumatized. Sometimes this state will last well into adulthood, perhaps even the victim’s whole life. And since the maturity level has been stalled, this results in the victims continuing to behave in an irresponsible, childish, selfish and naive way, even as adults. The victims also tend to experience problems with their impulse control. The victims’ lack of good judgement, may therefore make it difficult for them to understand what employers expect of them. And since they often do not demand enough of themselves due to their poor self-esteem, this can also lead to difficulties in managing a job.

They may also experience difficulties in reading other people accurately as well as correctly assessing their state of mind and seeing through their intentions. All these deficiencies affect the social skills and the ability to interact with others in a positive way. It is not unusual that the victim also begin to treat other children, the way he/she is being treated. This behaviour is by the way often encouraged by the perpetrator, thus causing the victim to become even lonelier. To suffer from sibling abuse means that victims do not get the opportunity to build their social skills like other children. Instead, they develop a feeling of having no value and can experience panic attacks and difficulty trusting other people.

Now the entry is over for this time. Please, take care of yourself and others. Thank you. See you if you wish to, next week.


You are welcome to comment if you like, but please do so with respect and good judgement.


Book: Perilous rivalry by Vernon R. Wiehe, Teresa Herring, 1991

Book: Sibling abuse by Vernon R. Wiehe, 1997





© Helén Varenius – text and photo