Sibling experiences of adverse childhood experiences: a scoping review

Ben Donagh*, Muna Al Mushaikhi, Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Julie Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events during childhood known to affect health and well-being across the life span. The detrimental impact ACEs have on children and young people is well-established. It is also known that 85 to 90% of children have at least one sibling. Using this as the foundation for our inquiry, the purpose of this scoping review was to understand what we currently know about the experiences of siblings living with ACEs. Sibling relationships are unique, and for some the most enduring of experiences. These relationships can be thought of as bonds held together by love and warmth; however, they can also provide scope for undesirable outcomes, such as escalation of conflicts and animosities. This scoping review was conducted following Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) methodological framework, complemented by the PAGER framework (Bradbury-Jones et al. 2021), offering a structured approach to the review’s analysis and reporting through presenting the Patterns, Advances, Gaps, and Evidence for practice and Research. In June 2020, we searched 12 databases, with 11,469 results. Articles were screened for eligibility by the review team leaving a total of 148 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Included articles highlighted overwhelming evidence of older siblings shielding younger siblings, and the likelihood that when one sibling experiences adversity, other siblings will be experiencing it themselves or vicariously. The implications of this in practice are that support services and statutory bodies need to ensure considerations are given to all siblings when one has presented with experiencing childhood adversity, especially to older siblings who may take far more burden as regards care-giving and protection of younger siblings. Given that more than half of the included articles did not offer any theoretical understanding to sibling experiences of ACEs, this area is of importance for future research. Greater attention is also needed for research exploring different types of sibling relationships (full, step, half), and whether these influence the impact that ACEs have on children and young people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3513-3527
Number of pages15
JournalTrauma, Violence, & Abuse
Issue number5
Early online date16 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • adverse childhood experiences
  • siblings
  • violence and abuse
  • trauma


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