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OBJECTIVES - To compare peer relationships among bereaved siblings and matched classmates, and to examine gender, grade level, and time since death as moderators.
METHODS - Families were recruited from cancer registries at four hospitals 3-12 months after a child's death. Measures of social behavior and peer acceptance were completed by children in the classrooms of 105 bereaved siblings (ages 8-17 years). Teachers also reported on children's social behavior. Three classmates were matched for gender, race, and age to each bereaved sibling to form a comparison group (n = 311).
RESULTS - Teachers reported bereaved siblings were more prosocial than comparison classmates. Peers perceived bereaved boys as more sensitive-isolated and victimized, while bereaved siblings in elementary grades were perceived by peers as less prosocial, more sensitive-isolated, less accepted, and as having fewer friends. Peers and teachers viewed bereaved siblings in middle/high school grades as higher on leadership-popularity.
CONCLUSIONS - Bereaved siblings who were male and in elementary grades were more vulnerable to social difficulties, while those in middle/high school may exhibit some strengths. Ongoing research to inform the development of interventions for bereaved siblings is warranted.