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, 8 (3), 311-7

Child Abuse by Siblings

Child Abuse by Siblings

A H Green. Child Abuse Negl.

Abstract

The case histories of five children who inflicted serious injuries on their younger siblings are described in detail. The children shared several experiences in common: They had been physically abused themselves; their families were undergoing crises, which accentuated their maternal deprivation and rejection; they were burdened with excessive caretaking for the target sibling, who was perceived as the favorite; they had also experienced the recent loss of their father or paternal caretaker. The psychodynamics associated with sibling abuse represented an intensification of "normal" sibling rivalry due to the abuser's own maltreatment and deprivation. Pent-up rage towards the mother was displaced onto the sibling rival. The abusers made use of identification with the aggressor as a prominent mechanism of defense. The sibling attacks were adaptive for the abusers in the following ways: (a) They afforded them a measure of revenge against the more highly regarded sibling rival; (b) they served as an outlet for rage directed towards the mother; (c) they were used as an attention getting device; (d) they provided a sense of mastery over the trauma of their own abuse; and (e) were used to "educate" the abusing parent.

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