Am I my brother’s keeper?

Focusing on the impact of sibling relationships within the family and on society.

Dr. Avidan Milevsky

Department of Behavioral Sciences

“In my studies, we’re finding that well children of siblings with disabilities are also suffering and need special attention.”
Dr. Avidan Milevsky

Ariel University is proud to welcome Dr. Avidan Milevsky to the Department of Behavioral Sciences. Prior to immigrating to Israel from the United States in 2016, Dr. Avidan Milevsky split his time between a private psychological counseling practice in Maryland, a professorship at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, and as a rabbi at the Georgetown Synagogue in Washington, D.C. Now, after settling with his family in Beit Shemesh, he is continuing his teaching and intensive research at Ariel University on issues concerning family dynamics, parenting, sibling issues and parents in transition.

Having personally gone through the Aliyah process recently with his own family provided him with many insights about what new immigrant families face and how to prepare for a smooth transition. He recently partnered with Nefesh b’Nefesh, a nonprofit organization that promotes, encourages and facilitates Aliyah from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In one study, he and collected information from 140 families who made Aliyah over the past decade. Nefesh b’Nefesh is using his study to highlight features of successful immigration, including what factors play a role in the adjustment of children and families. “We found that for children to do well, parents also need to be doing well. If parents’ own well-being, mental health and social connections are strained, it follows that their children will also not manage well.” Children who are closer to their siblings were found to do better in general. Dr. Milevsky is currently running analyses on the data collected with the help of Nefesh b’Nefesh and submitting results for publication. See a related book chapter: http://education.jed.macam.ac.il/article/3170

Milevsky book cover - sibling issues in therapy
Dr. Milevsky book cover - sibling issues in therapy

Another subject on which Dr. Milevsky is currently focused deals with what it is like to be the sibling of a child with disabilities. Much attention is paid to parenting children with disabilities, but less to the experience of their well siblings. “In my studies, we’re finding that well children of siblings with disabilities are also suffering and need special attention. On the positive side, there is a lot of growth potential. I kind of fell into this subject by chance when I was invited to give a talk to mental health professionals in Virginia a few years ago about general sibling relationships, highlighting the contribution of sibling support in treatment. Someone from the audience approached me to ask if I had ever worked in the area of siblings of children with disabilities. She connected me with someone who was doing work on this subject, and since then I’ve been quite involved it.” This subject has attracted a good deal of media attention from all over the world, including The New York Times. Dr. Milevsky has published widely on this subject, including a chapter in a book, and in Huffington Post. He has been invited to serve on advisory boards for groups in the US, Australia and the UK. He is advising a few master’s and doctoral students who are doing research in this area, as well. “This is a very important subject, and I am glad it’s getting proper attention.” For the most part, Dr. Milevsky’s studies focus on siblings of children with disabilities who have already reached young adulthood to understand how their identity affects their lives, such as career choice. In Israel, he collaborates with several organizations, predominantly Knafayim Shel Krembo (Krembo Wings), a nationwide youth movement for children and youth with and without disabilities.

Another qualitative study underway deals with siblings of soldiers who died in action or as victims of acts of terror. He is currently intaking data regarding how the death of siblings impacts the surviving siblings’ lives, and how having other surviving siblings helps in their mourning and transition period.

For further information on Dr. Milevsky’s research, go to http://www.avidanmilevsky.com/.

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