A Parent's Role in Sibling Response to Disability



Bertram, Emily

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Growing up with an intellectually disabled sibling has distinct effects on a non-disabled child's development. Parenting these children while also parenting an intellectually disabled child is a uniquely stressful role. Using a grounded theory method, this research study explores the myriad of interconnected issues that affect parents’ and children’s response to having an intellectually disabled child in the family. Interviews were conducted with sixteen parents from nine families to better understand their perspectives on disability. In accordance with previous research, parental attitude toward disability was found to be a key factor in sibling adjustment. Parents’ choices regarding education, delegation of responsibility, siblings’ community involvement, and parent-child relationship also were shown to play a role in sibling response. In spite of the unique family stresses, parents interviewed indicated long-term positive impacts on their non-disabled children from growing up with a disabled sibling. The study summarizes significant factors of response to disability and implications for clinical and practical application.



siblings, special needs, disability, intellectual disability