Sibling relationships in the family of a child with a burn injury

Carlee R Lehna, The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston


Purpose. Understanding siblings' experiences after a major childhood burn injury was the purpose of this mixed method, qualitative dominant study. The following research questions guided this project: How do siblings describe the impact of a major childhood burn injury experience? How do sibling relationship factors of warmth/closeness, relative status/power, conflict, and rivalry further clarify their relationship and their experience after a major burn injury? Methods. A mixed method, qualitative dominant, design was implemented to understand the sibling experiences in a family with a child suffering from a major burn injury. Informants were selected from patients with childhood burn injuries attending the reconstructive clinic at a Gulf coast children's specialty hospital. The qualitative portion used the life story method, a narrative process, to portray the long-term impact on sibling relationships. A "case" represents a family unit and could be composed of one or multiple family members. Participants from 22 cases (N = 40 participants) were interviewed. Interviews were conducted in person and via telephone. The quantitative portion, or the embedded part of this mixed method design, used the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire Revised (SRQ-R) to conduct an additional structured interview and acquire scoring data. It was postulated that the SRQ-R would provide another perspective on the sibling experience and expand the qualitative data analysis. Thematic analysis was implemented on the qualitative interview data including the qualitative data from the interviews structured on the SRQ-R. Additionally, scores on the SRQ-R were tabulated to further describe the cases. Results. The overall thematic pattern for the sibling relationship in families having a child with a major burn injury was that of normalization. Areas of normalization as well as the process of adjustment were the major themes. Areas of normalization were found in play and other activities, in school and work, and in family relations with their siblings and their parents. The process of adjustment in the sibling relationship was described as varied, involved school and work re-entry, and might even change their life perspective. Further analysis included an examination of the cases in which more than one person were interviewed and completed the SRQ-R. Participants from five ( n = 11) of six cases (n = 14), scored above 3.0 on the five-point scale on the Warmth/Closeness construct, indicating they perceived the sibling relationship as close. Five participants scored high on the Conflict construct and four participants scored high on the Rivalry construct. Finally, Relative Status/Power was low or negative in the six cases (n = 13). Conclusions/implications. These findings suggest the importance of returning to normalcy for many of the families and the significance of sibling relationships on the process. Some of these families were able to use this major life event in a positive way to promote normalization.

Subject Area

Nursing|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Lehna, Carlee R, "Sibling relationships in the family of a child with a burn injury" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3308877.