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KU Professor Serves as Academic Expert for Legislation in Support of Sibling Visitation Rights

April 21, 2014

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - Dr. Avidan Milevsky, Kutztown University associate professor of psychology, was asked to serve as an academic expert in support of House Bill 642 by state Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D-Phila.). The introduced legislation would give standing to siblings who wanted to petition the court for visitation rights, in cases of divorce, adoption or placement proceedings.

Milevsky provided testimony about the importance of sibling relationships before the House Children and Youth Committee during a public hearing on the bill, in Nov. 2013, at the Pennsylvania State Capital Building in Harrisburg, Pa.

Currently, siblings have very little recourse in legal proceedings. According to Milevsky, in most states, grandparents have more visitation rights than siblings do, even though his research has shown how important and beneficial sibling relationships can be.

"Research supports the need for this legislation," Milevsky said. "By definition, this legislation will impact children who are undergoing some kind of difficulty - whether due to divorce, adoption, or foster placement. Within the turmoil of these situations, the sibling relationship is the only unit of continuity. In the midst of chaos, the sibling bond remains constant. We should enact legal provisions that allow children to maintain their sibling relationships."

Milevsky's research has demonstrated that sibling relationships influence several dimensions of development throughout the lifespan.

"So much of who we are, for the rest of our lives, is shaped by the relationship we have with our siblings," he explained. "Many integral aspects of life are among the domains affected by early and current sibling dynamics, including identity development; marital satisfaction; the occupations that we choose; psychological wellbeing; success; and parenting styles."

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dr. Milevsky is a psychotherapist at Wellspring Counseling in Towson, Md. He was the founding chair of the Department of Psychology at Touro College South in Miami Beach, Fla., and serves as the director of the Center for Parenting Research at KU. His research on families and siblings has produced more than 100 conference presentations and extensive publications in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Milevsky is also a columnist for Psychology Today and The Huffington Post on sibling issues, and has been interviewed by national media about his work on siblings. 

 

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