"If you have an older child who is breaking a lot of the rules and engaging in dangerous and risky behavior, this can have a negative impact on the younger child," the New York Daily News quoted Dr. Eva Ritvo, psychiatrist and vice chair of psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine, as saying."
"Adolescents are trying to break away from their family and they don't always make the best choices. They're looking for role models other than their parents, and often turn to peers and older sisters, who can have a very powerful influence on the younger child," she said.
Impressionable Ali can hardly help but notice Lindsay's partying, stints in and out of rehab, and her skin-and-bones appearance. But how she reacts to those things could go one of two directions, experts say. Teens having out-of-control older sibs may copy them, while others fall into the role of trying to protect loved ones from the person.
"You either try to outdo or you become a caretaker," says Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, who founded the website www.LivingtheTruth.com. "The course Ali is taking appears to be more in the direction of copying than in shrinking from the cameras and the revelry," he said.
Psychologist Donna LaMar said that Ali could be helped if a caring adult steps in and offers guidance, support and perspective. That person does not necessarily have to be a relative in order to be effective, she said. "It could be a teacher or in her case, maybe someone in the business," LaMar said.
"The person could just say to her, hey what are you doing? What are you searching for and what do you need in your life right now? It's never too late. There is always a choice to be made," she stated. For now, Ali, who was recently spotted holding Lindsay's hand as they left West Hollywood's Chateau Marmont together, appears to be choosing her sister.
"Trying to get what you need as a 15-year-old girl can be a tall order when your sister is very famous and very unpredictable," Ablow said. A 15-year-old should not have to be in the role or either caretaker or competitor, but she should be in a comfortable place where she can become an individual, where she can look at the world with security and choose what defines her," he added.