Reviewing the Evidence on Sibling Sexual Behaviour: Impact on Research, Policy and Practice
Current Psychiatry Reports
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Purpose of Review
This paper reviews recent research into sibling sexual behaviour (SSB). This is an emerging professional and community issue that binds together a limited evidence base across research, practice and policy in psychology, criminology, politics, social work and policy studies. The review will demonstrate that a multi-disciplinary, life course, family system approach is the most effective way of starting to develop interventions to prevent and respond to this issue.
SSB has previously been researched as a form of intrafamilial abuse or sibling incest. As a result of this SSB is poorly and inconsistently defined as a concept, meaning that research, practice and policy are sometimes at odds with each other and need to pull together to develop a cohesive framing of the issue. This means that a lot of older research needs to be contextualised in new emerging frames of thinking and ways of working. Current research emphasises the importance of understanding the role of the family system in creating conditions where SSB can occur and its central role in preventing and stopping it from occurring. The research also stresses the importance of professionals understanding the family context of SSB and has the confidence to identify and work proactively with families in a multi-agency and cross-disciplinary way.
The prevention of, and response to, SSB requires a multi-level, multi-disciplinary approach. Successful prevention of and response to SSB are as much about the family system as it is about the attitudes, behaviours and experiences of the siblings impacted by the abuse.