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Sibling sexual abuse: A form of family dysfunction as opposed to individualised behaviour

McCartan, Kieran; King-Hill, Sophie; Gilsenan, Abby


Kieran McCartan
Professor in Sociology and Criminology

Sophie King-Hill

Abby Gilsenan


This paper presents a reconsideration and more in-depth discussion part of some the findings of the Home Office funded Sibling Sexual Abuse (SSA) project (King-Hill et al, 2023). The focus of the paper on the role of family systems, especially dysfunctional family systems, in the sexual abuse. The research is based on 17 semi-structured interviews with survivors of SSA (n=17 female), which were thematically analysed. This resulted in the research team being able to identify 10 commonly identified markers of SSA and family dysfunction. The 10 markers highlight that the family structure, systems, processes, and functionality all contribute to the conditions that enable Sibling Sexual Abuse to occur. The paper goes on to discuss the importance of understanding family systems, ACE’s, and trauma in preventing and responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse. The paper concludes that the family system is a key player in Sibling Sexual Abuse and needs to be considered in prevention and treatment as the child who id harmed and the child that harms.


McCartan, K., King-Hill, S., & Gilsenan, A. (2023). Sibling sexual abuse: A form of family dysfunction as opposed to individualised behaviour. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 29(3), 427-439.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 9, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 22, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Sep 10, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 23, 2024
Journal Journal of Sexual Aggression
Print ISSN 1355-2600
Electronic ISSN 1742-6545
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 3
Pages 427-439
Keywords Behavioral Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Mental health, General Psychology, Applied Psychology
Public URL


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