Family therapists understand that children presenting for treatment are often bearers of symptoms signalling relational problems within the family system. Rather than addressing the children's symptoms in isolation, family therapists typically take those relational problems as their starting point in therapy. This study used the School-aged Assessment of Attachment (SAA) to assess the self-protective (attachment) strategies of the siblings of children presenting for psychiatric evaluation and also of the siblings of control children drawn from the normative population. Siblings of children in the clinical group were much more likely than siblings of control children to use at-risk self-protective strategies and to have markers suggestive of unresolved loss or trauma. School-aged siblings were found to use a broad range of strategies, and the pattern of change from first born to later born involved either a reversal of strategy or a shift to a more complex strategy. The study highlights that siblings of children presenting to mental health services are significantly affected by family relational stress. A family systems approach to assessment, one that enquires about the wellbeing of all family members, will ensure that the emotional needs of siblings are also addressed during the therapy process.