Chronic physical health conditions (CPHC) of children affect the whole family. The aim of the present meta-analysis was to compare levels of internalizing, externalizing, and total problems as well as self-esteem/positive self-concept and prosocial behavior of the healthy siblings with children from families not affected by CPHC and test norms, respectively.
A systematic search for literature was conducted using the electronic data bases CINAHL, PsycInfo, PubMed, PSYNDEX, and Web of Science. In total, results from 216 studies were included in random-effects meta-analyses that had been published or made available online before February 15, 2022.
Healthy siblings of children with CPHC had elevated levels of internalizing (g = .18 standard deviation units), externalizing (g = .13), and total behavior problems (g = .22), and effect sizes were found to be small to very small. While levels of self-esteem did, on average, not vary between healthy children with and without a sibling with CPHC or test norms (g = .08), higher levels of prosocial behavior were found in the healthy siblings of children with CPHC (g = .18). In addition, some moderating effects of kind of CPHC and its intrusiveness as well as mortality risk, country, sociodemographic equivalence of the compared groups, and year of publication were identified.
It is concluded that CPHC of a child can have negative as well as positive effects on psychosocial outcomes of healthy siblings. Psychosocial interventions are recommended for healthy siblings at elevated risk for psychological problems.