Family relationship factors and their effects on resilience in adolescents maltreated by adult caregivers


Shafa, Vanessa (2016). Family relationship factors and their effects on resilience in adolescents maltreated by adult caregivers.


The current study examined how the sibling relationship and positive family experience longitudinally impact the mental health of adolescents, particularly those who have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. Over 3,000 participants from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) were included in this study, which examined the associations between family relationship factors in adolescence and mental health in young adulthood through a Structural Regression Model. Two different sibling relationship factors were examined: perceived closeness and the average level of sibling conflict. The findings provide further evidence that experiencing physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence can have a negative impact on individuals’ emotional well-being later in life. Physical abuse was associated with a higher number of depressive symptoms for up to 10 to 15 years after entering adulthood. Additionally, experiencing sexual abuse or both physical and sexual abuse prior to age 18 was associated with later onset depression. Lower frequency of sibling conflict was found to be associated with a lower number of depressive symptoms for up to 15 years past adolescence, whereas having a positive family experience in adolescence led to higher self-esteem. Conversely, sibling relationship factors were not generally found to moderate the association between experiencing abuse and depression later in life with one exception. The effect of experiencing both physical and sexual abuse prior to age 18 on depressive symptomatology in early adulthood appears to be mitigated by the frequency of sibling conflict present in adolescence. Results confirm previous research findings that indicate that experiencing physical and/or sexual abuse prior to age 18 can have longer term mental health effects in the form of depression later in life. Results also confirm that sibling conflict is one of the most influential sibling-relationship factors on mental health and that the sibling relationship in general should be considered an important factor in the emotion well-being of a child or adolescent. The study also provides new evidence that the level of sibling conflict can mitigate the effect of experiencing physical and sexual abuse on depression later in later in life. Clinically, these results suggest that when doing family work with teens, it is important to consider the role of their siblings and the quality of their relationship as factors that could potentially impact their emotional well-being. Sibling conflict, specifically, should be monitored closely in children and adolescents who are at risk for depression due to a history of experiencing maltreatment. The sibling relationship can promote emotional well-being in both individuals who have experienced maltreatment and those who have not and should be considered clinically when working with adolescents.



Psychology Add Health Family relationship Physical abuse Resilience Sexual abuse Sibling conflict Sibling perceived closeness Social psychology Clinical psychology


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Reference Type


Book Title



Shafa, Vanessa

Series Author(s)

Tiet, Quyen

Year Published


Volume Number





Alliant International University

City of Publication

Ann Arbor





Reference ID