“Blood Pact”: Professionals’ Perceptions on the Sibling Subsystem in the Context of Child Abuse

Carmit Katz*, Dafna Tener, Or Yuval Sharabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Child abuse is a common phenomenon worldwide. The most frequent setting of child abuse is within the family. While most studies on intrafamilial child abuse have focused on the parental unit and parent–child relations, the sibling subsystem remains understudied. The current study was designed to examine the way therapeutic professionals in the field of child abuse perceive and experience the sibling subsystem in the context of parental child abuse. Thirty therapeutic professionals were interviewed. Thematic analysis of the transcripts identified three themes. The first was related to the sibling relationship in childhood and adulthood. In both periods, distinct profiles were identified: strong bonds versus disconnection, with the latter sometimes involving abuse by the sibling in childhood. The second theme was the sibling dynamic during disclosure. Here, too, two profiles were identified: secrecy within the family and the role of the siblings in maintaining it, and older siblings choosing to disclose to save their younger siblings. The third theme addressed interventions that relate to the sibling subsystem. All participants discussed its importance while also acknowledging the limited attention given to sibling interventions in practice, as well as insufficient knowledge and training. The main conclusion is that there is an urgent need to enhance child abuse practitioners’ attention to and knowledge of the role of the sibling subsystem in both childhood and adulthood.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)175-192
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Child abuse
  • Intervention
  • Professionals
  • Sibling subsystem


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