Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Frederick A. Kosinski, Jr.

Second Advisor

Wilfred G. A. Futcher

Third Advisor

Derrick L. Proctor



In looking at the importance of sibling relationships, we see that the death of a sibling can cause considerable disruption to the surviving child's development. A review of the childhood sibling loss literature indicated that no study was found that investigated the effects of sibling loss on depression and psychosocial development and studied reactions to sibling loss and its effects on cognition, emotions, behaviors, interpersonal relations, and spirituality.


Thirty subjects participated in this research and composed three developmental groups. Erik Erikson's psychosocial developmental stages were utilized in this investigation. The subjects were grouped according to their age at the time of the study. These groups were ages 8-12 years, ages 13-21 years, and ages 22-35 years. The subjects that participated in this study had experienced the death of a sibling before the age of 25 years. The subjects were voluntary participants who were recruited through The Compassionate Friends. Each subject was administered a depression instrument (either the Reynolds Child Depression Scale or the Multiscore Depression Inventory) and underwent a structured interview. Subjects that were 13 years of age or older were also administered a psychosocial development instrument (Measures of Psychosocial Development). The information obtained from the structured interview and the instruments was then developed into case studies, and analyzed using content analysis.


Both positive and negative short-term and long-term reactions to the experience of childhood sibling loss were found in the areas of cognition, emotions, behaviors, interpersonal relations, and spirituality. Most subjects in this study appeared to have been experiencing minimal or mild depression. In addition, both advanced psychosocial development and psychosocial developmental difficulties were found.


The salient nature of childhood sibling loss was discussed for each of the three developmental age groups as related to patterns of major reactions in the areas of cognition, emotions, behaviors, interpersonal relations, and spirituality. In addition, possible causes for each of the following were discussed: advanced psychosocial development, age-appropriate psychosocial development, psychosocial developmental difficulties, and depression.

Subject Area

Children and death; Bereavement in children


Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."