Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Mary Katherine O'Connor


Sibling violence is a common occurrence for many children yet this form of family violence has received minimal attention in research compared to other forms of child maltreatment. With parents as an integral component in the lives of many children, parental perceptions and experiences of violence between siblings are important to understand. Furthermore, with the increased variation in family structures within society, inclusion of multiple types of families in research is necessary to encompass a broad understanding of sibling violence. This case study included seven parents from four different family structures to examine their perceptions and experiences of physical and emotional violence between siblings. Three phases of data collection including both quantitative and qualitative data gathered information about participants’ experiences with siblings in childhood, witnessed behaviors between children, behaviors associated with sibling violence and sibling rivalry, and labels used to refer to violence between siblings. Participants were also presented with several case scenarios depicting various sibling interactions in which they processed the degree to which they found the behaviors violent or non-violent. Findings indicate that family structure is less important than past and present environmental and contextual factors in understanding participant differentiation between problematic and non-problematic behaviors between siblings. Data from all three phases helped in the construction of a parental decision-making model of sibling interaction that included consideration of past experiences, children factors, the context of interaction, and family rules when classifying behaviors. Implications of the findings for social work direct practice, policy aimed at addressing violence between siblings, advocacy through parental education, social work education, and future directions for research in the area of sibling violence are presented.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2014

Included in

Social Work Commons