Long-term consequences of sibling abuse Part 2

Delayed emotional development and social skills – continuation

Social skills is all about learning how to cooperate with other people, making contacts and friends, and this take a long time to develop. Normally, children receive help improving their ability to interpret signals, understand expressions of emotions and language, and to express their needs in harmony with others. And that, in turn, form the basis of empathic understanding and social skills. Having good social skills are important when it comes to making friends and to succeed at school and in future professional life.

But when sibling abuse comes into the picture, this process is disrupted. The abused children will over and over get their personal boundaries violated and their needs neglected and thus obtaining abnormal frames of reference. This is because a child does not have anything else to compare his or her experiences with. Besides, younger siblings often look up to and want to be accepted by their older siblings. They therefore tend to believe in the name-calling and other insulting remarks they are told. And that, in turn, makes the child become insecure and not getting the opportunity to build any confidence or awareness of what is right and wrong.

The fact that children lack the basic sense of security can result in difficulties regulating their emotions. The victim can become very angry, sad or worried when he or she meets adults and other children. This is especially common in cases, where the child does not already know them. That is partly because the child is in a situation, where he or she does not know what is going to happen.

In families where emotional abuse occurs, what is normal one day, can be a disaster the next day. An action that one time leads to the child being praised, can the next time be the basis for a fit of anger.

In a home where a child is emotionally neglected, there is also no room for the child to learn how to recognize their own feelings or learning strategies to manage them. The child is thus left on his or her own to try to learn and understand his or her own thoughts and reactions.

Problems with relationships

In the long term, a child who has grown up in a home with sibling abuse can therefore have trouble with relationships, especially with the opposite sex, which stems from a lack of trust, fear and suspicion. The child who now has become a teenager or an adult dare not to rely on other people’s good will. He or she may question his or her own right to be loved and feel good and may in addition have developed a fear of being abandoned or left.

This fear can lead to clinging, or a reluctance to even want to venture into a relationship in the first place.

They may also have problems seeing and respecting other people’s boundaries, since they throughout their childhood have had their own personal boundaries violated and transcended by an attacking sibling. Many times they therefore as adults tend to end up in relationships where they again relive their victim role. In other words, they make friends and companions with people who treat them badly. This reinforces, in turn, both the poor self-esteem and the feelings of inferiority.

Children’s fear of intimacy develops early in life. When young children are experiencing emotional pain, they soon begin to turn off their emotions. It is a survival mechanism that teaches the children that they cannot rely on or trust other people. This in turn, can lead to children soon beginning to indulge in fantasies about relationships, instead of wanting to hang out with real people, because in contrast to other people fantasies cannot hurt them. Over time, it can lead to the child preferring his/her imaginary relationships to human interactions.

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