Caring Over the Lifespan: Experiences of Caring for a Sibling with Schizophrenia

Prof Doc Thesis

Stillwell, Katherine 2016. Caring Over the Lifespan: Experiences of Caring for a Sibling with Schizophrenia. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology
AuthorsStillwell, Katherine
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Siblings can be seen as a huge resource in caring for adults with a diagnosis of schizophrenia: Many expect to take over the caring role of caring when their parents no longer can, and positive sibling relationships are related to better outcomes for adults with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (Smith, Greenberg and Seltzer, 2007). Despite these facts research into family carers has tended to neglect exploring sibling relationships until recently. Previous research has focused on the negative aspects of caring, and the coping strategies of the siblings. Very little has considered the impact of caring on the sibling relationship over the life-cycle, and why some siblings may offer support for their diagnosed siblings, while others do not. This study aimed to explore the sibling relationship over the life-cycle.
Six adults with a sibling diagnosed with schizophrenia were interviewed about their experiences growing up with and caring for their sibling over their life-cycle. Data was analysed using existentialist-informed hermeneutic phenomenology. Following this analysis three superordinate themes were identified, these were: the ‘terrible weight’ of having a sibling with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, evolution of the caring role over time, and expectations for their life-cycle. The findings from this study support previous findings showing that caring for a sibling with a diagnosis of schizophrenia is a difficult experience. This study also showed that the participants’ ability to care for their sibling increased over time, related to access to have some emotional distance, learning to care for themselves, gaining knowledge about schizophrenia and their sibling’s idiosyncrasies and being able to negotiate a caring vs a sibling relationship. The findings suggest that the participants felt a sense of obligation to care for their diagnosed siblings and that taking on this role might impact on their life choices, such as to have children. Limitations of the study, the implications for clinical psychology and recommendations for future research are discussed.

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Publication dates
PrintMay 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Nov 2016
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