Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Brothers and sisters of children with disabilities, Families of the mentally ill-Psychology, Mentally ill-Family relationships, Adult children of dysfunctional families, Object relations (Psychoanalysis), Psychic trauma, Intimacy (Psychology), Siblings, Relationships, Interpersonal relations, Trauma, Serious mental illness, Object relations


This theoretical study examines the experience of growing up with a sibling with a serious mental illness and how this phenomenon may then affect intimate relationships later in life. Theoretical perspectives of both trauma theory and object relations theory are applied to this phenomenon and how it affects the well siblings. Findings of the current study suggest that individuals internalize aspects of this early relationship and also internalize aspects of the relationship with their parents who are focusing so much care and attention on the mentally ill sibling. Patterns of maladaptive relationships may then continue to occur in the future. The findings highlight that it is important for clinicians to pay attention to the needs of the well siblings and work from a family systems framework while treating someone with a serious mental illness. When treating individuals in adulthood, it is also important to pay attention to early needs that may not have been met in childhood which may be contributing to unhealthy relationship patterns.




iii, 55 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 51-54)