Siblings of Persons with Serious Mental Illness: Resilience and Support
The Ecosystems perspective (Grief & Lynch, 1983) suggests a reverberating effect of enhanced quality of life in one family member on the family ecology. The enrichment of any member’s life may lead to the enhancement of the entire family’s quality of life. To this end, a cross-national sample of 130 siblings (68 Americans and 62 Japanese) of persons with serious mental illness was analyzed to understand the life experiences associated with the mental illness. Different aspects of their experiences were described and compared between the U.S. and Japan. The role of social support, defined by selfobject relationship (Kohut, 1984), in their experiences was then explored.
The descriptive data showed that there were experiences and feelings shared by the majority of siblings in both countries whereas some other feelings were experienced only by the minority. Logistic regression analyses and or MANCOVAs demonstrated cross-national differences in social support and resources, but there were no major cross-national differences in negative or positive experiences. Further, multiple regression analysis showed an association between what was termed “Developmental Factor” and negative experiences. Social support was found to moderate this association for the U.S. siblings.
Keywords: Siblings, Mental Illness, Negative Experiences, Positive Experiences, Coping, Social Support
Dr. Kimiko Tanaka
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, School of Social Work, Columbia University