Background: Childhood illness can have a significant impact on families, particularly on the ill child's siblings. There is a dearth of published literature focusing on the needs of siblings of ill children.
Aim: This literature review aims to provide an overview of the current healthcare literature in relation to the impact of childhood chronic illness or disability on siblings.
Method: A literature review was undertaken by searching the databases CINAHL, PsycINFO, ProQuest and Cochrane Library for relevant articles in English using the search terms: 'siblings', 'chronic illness', 'disability', 'cancer', 'sibling relations', 'sibling adjustment', 'coping', 'family-centred care', 'sibling interventions', 'camps', 'autism', 'Down's syndrome'. Seventeen research studies in total were reviewed.
Results: This review focuses on three sibling groups related to children suffering from autism, cancer and Down's syndrome, and are discussed under the following headings: sibling adjustment; family functioning and sibling's coping resources; and intervention programmes.
Conclusion: The literature revealed that siblings of children with Down's syndrome were well adjusted to living with their brother or sister. However, there was conflicting information on the adjustment of siblings of children with cancer and autism. An awareness of the harmful effect that living with childhood illness and disability can have on some siblings is essential to enable healthcare professionals to provide supportive interventions to protect siblings' physical and emotional wellbeing.