Christiane Knecht looks back on many years of professional experience as a nurse in various fields in nursing practice. In addition to several years of work in intensive care at different clinics, she worked for twelve years as a nursing scientist in a university hospital. She graduated with a degree in nursing in 1999 in one of the first German Nursing study programs at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. From 2010 to 2013 she studied nursing science at the Philosophical-Theological University Vallendar and completed with a master degree. Subsequently, Christiane Knecht was research fellow in the Graduate School “Family Health in the Lifecourse” at Witten/Herdecke University funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. In the second funding phase and after defending her PhD thesis, she was employed as a postdoctoral fellow of the Graduate School. Since June 2017 Christiane Knecht represents the Professorship of Acute Care (50%) in the Department of Nursing Science at the Witten/Herdecke University. She is also a professor for nursing science (50%) at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Bochum since March 2018.
The sibling relationship in families with a child with a chronic illness - The perspective of healthy siblings
The sibling relationship is often the longest lasting interpersonal relationship in life. This fundamental socialisation experience is also important for the development of personality and identity. On the one hand siblings form a unit and at the same time they compete with each other. While these attributes characterize the relationship between healthy siblings, this bond changes when one of the children is affected by a chronic illness. This special relationship is the subject of a Grounded Theory study that deals with the experience and the coping behavior of healthy siblings from their own perspective.
24 qualitative interviews were conducted with healthy siblings in order to reconstruct their experiences interpretatively. In an iterative process of data collection and analysis siblings‘ view could be reconstructed and condensed.
If healthy children grow up with a sibling affected by chronic illness, they often play a subordinate role. Although the familial attention is focused on the ill child and there is a disparate relationship of competence between the children, they experience intense sibling moments. The family and social experience of healthy siblings is significantly influenced by the chronic illness. On the one hand, it leads to this very intimate relationship and, at the same time, the illness requires of healthy siblings to make adjustments to their own lives. As a result, healthy siblings perform actions, which intend to sustain their own social life and to reconcile it with the family life that is irritated by the illness: For example, they seek and sustain shelters and find recognition outside the family. At the same time, they strive to normalcy for their siblings relationship and take responsibility for the ill sibling, e.g. as an advocate or playmate as well as in care and therapy. Healthy siblings can get into conflict if they are torn between their own lives and those of their siblings. In such decision-making situations, they tend to resolve them quickly in favor of the sibling.
To recognize the contradiction between the family life influenced by the illness and the preservation of the personal development opportunities of healthy siblings and adequately support the healthy siblings is an essential task of persons who accompany healthy siblings in social, educational and health institutions.