Academic journal article Family Relations

Siblings in Family Transitions

Academic journal article Family Relations

Siblings in Family Transitions

Article excerpt

Siblings in Family Transitions*

This research focuses on how siblings are organiZed following two types of family transitions: foster care placements and parental divorce. Its goal was to identify the family characteristics associated with intact and split sibling groups. The sample was composed of 294 families. Results indicate that siblings are more likely to be separated when children are older and when they have larger age gap with their siblings; arrangements in which siblings are separated produce greater instability,for them.

Key Words: divorce, foster core. siblings, sibling relationships. split.

This article deals with sibling arrangements following family transitions. In the context of our research, a family transition is defined as a process of change that affects family structure, that takes place over a period of time, and that gives rise to a new organization. We chose to study two forms of family transitions: foster care placement and parental divorce. The decision to study these two transitions simultaneously was based on the expertise of the team members regarding each of the two transitions, as well as on the theoretical and empirical work elucidating the restructuring processes that they share.

Our research approach is based on a field of study focusing on events that lie outside the regular cycle of family life (see Beaudoin et al., 1997). For example, the death of a child would be considered part of that category of events, whereas the birth of a child is generally part of the expected cycle of family life. Many authors have pointed out that events that lie outside the regular cycle of family life give rise to transitions that present common features. Briefly, let us say that they are less predictable. In other words, most of the time, they are not part of the possibilities that couples consider when they decide to have a family. They also have the potential for greater disruption in family relations and roles (conjugal, parental, sibling). These events provoke high-risk family transitions in terms of the adjustments that must be made by both parents and children. These. events, particularly the ones that have a direct impact on family structure through the withdrawal or addition of a member, interested us. Such is the case for both the placement of a child in substitute care and parental separation. As stated by Bloom (1998), parental separation and placement of children throws all family Members into a period of restructuring during which family actors change their relationships, roles, and interactions.

While parental separation puts an end to conjugal life of two adults, it does not necessarily end the relationship between those adults and their children, nor the relationships between siblings. However, in some situations, a loss of contact with the non-custodial parent or with siblings can be observed. In the case of placement in foster care. the context is different because it constitutes a means of protecting the child whose development or safety is compromised, for example, due to negligence, physical abuse, or the child's behaviour problems. Depending on the situation, children may experience different degrees of disruption in their relationships with their parents. However, when a child is placed in Qu6bec's youth protection services there is a clear resolve not to replace the parents, but rather to encourage them to maintain connections with their child so that they can continue to play their role as parents. In summary, while we acknowledge the specificity of these two transitions with respect to what is involved for the children and their families, we believe that studying them together contributes to a more global understanding of family transitions that are the result of events not part of the predictible transitions in the life cycle of families. Our article lies within that perspective. Such transitions, which can have short- and long-term repercussions on the well-being of those concerned. …

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