Siblings within the care system can be complex. I have talked earlier about trauma bonds and the difficulties that can come from being part of a sibling group who have experienced trauma. However, there are also great benefits of keeping siblings together, if it’s appropriate.
I have just finished reading an autobiography by a lady called Regina Calcaterra who was raised in Long Island in America with her four siblings. I say raised, but it’s clear from the beginning of this book that the children raised themselves and each other. Their mother, who they call Cookie throughout the book, inflicted terrible abuse and neglect of these children and as a result they had to rely on each other to survive.
It is harrowing reading, as many of peoples’ stories are. The children were let down by the system and individuals time and time again, not believed and sent back to a very abusive woman who herself struggled with addiction and lack of support.
What has struck me though the most about this story is the bond between the children. Regina was the middle of the five and in-between older sisters who were trying to raise the younger, get out themselves and find a way to thrive, and her younger brother and sister who she felt very responsible for. This responsibility plagued her adult life too and without spoiling the story, if you want to read it, the children eventually come back together as a strong unit and can appreciate each other’s struggles in those early years.
It reminded me of my own children’s struggles. Our eldest has definitely felt that need to look after her brothers when they were younger and that has created an unhealthy bond sometimes. But the strength in that bond is also something I find amazing.
Trauma bond is usually used when talking about adults. The term ‘trauma bond’ is also known as Stockholm Syndrome. It describes a deep bond which forms between a victim and their abuser. Victims of abuse often develop a strong sense of loyalty towards their abuser, despite the fact that the bond is damaging to them.
Siblings who share a trauma history can sometimes form a trauma bond. A sibling trauma bond is an emotionally complex interpersonal relationship and can be very challenging to break. It can also be something that creates strength for a child and helps them to survive when without it they wouldn’t. When siblings experience parental abuse, they sometimes form strong connections that allow them to better cope with their circumstances while feeling understood and supported by each other.
“Trauma can have devastating effects on a child’s physiology, emotions, ability to think, learn, and concentrate, impulse control, self-image, and relationships with others; including their relationships with their siblings” (MacNamara, 2016).
You can certainly see both the positive and negative aspects of trauma for siblings in this book Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra. If you are considering adopting siblings, have siblings already placed who have experienced trauma together or are just interested in this subject I highly recommend a read of this book.
Happy reading, well poignant reading maybe, but definitely will change your view of what vulnerable young people may experience and just how important all relationships are in the healing process.