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The Mediating Role of Sibling Relationships and Attachment for Exposure to Multiple Developmental Traumatic Experiences on Mental Health Outcomes Open Access

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More than two thirds of children report experiencing at least one traumatic event by age 16 (SAMHSA, 2017). Researchers are studying children’s resilience and potential protective factors; however, the current literature is limited. The current literature focuses on the protective impact of attachment security and support from family, emphasizing primary caregivers. Around 80% of children grow up living with a sibling (Dunifon, Fomby, & Musick, 2017). Yet, the literature largely fails to examine the protective quality of positive sibling relationships. The main goal of the current study is to examine whether sibling relationships and attachment style may act as potential mediators for the effects of trauma on mental health outcomes. A sample of 490 participants was recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). The mean age of participants was 32.59 years old and the mean age for the participant’s sibling was 30.53 years old. The sample consisted of 46.5% male and 52.7% female, with sibling gender consisting of 49.2% male and 49.8% female. The majority of participants identified their race/ethnicity as either “White,” 54.3% or “Asian,” 31%. The researcher conducted a multiple mediation analysis using Hayes (2018) PROCESS macro to examine the relationship between mental health outcomes and exposure to multiple developmental traumatic events, with sibling relationship quality and participant attachment style as possible mediators. As is often found, traumatic experiences in youth were associated with poorer mental health outcomes. Overall, the findings of the current study indicate support for sibling relationship quality and attachment style partially mediating the effect of exposure to multiple developmental traumas on mental health outcomes. Attachment anxiety and sibling conflict were the most consistent and strongest mediators reducing the effect of trauma on mental health outcomes by 32% to 56%.

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