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Siblings of people with disabilities: A developmental analysis of the effects, impacts, and patterns of adaptation

Cinnamon Christine Azeez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Throughout their lives, siblings who have a brother or sister with a disability will face many challenges. Much of the research in this area has been quantitative and has resulted in contradictory conclusions. The purpose of this study was to investigate how siblings are affected by an exceptional brother or sister throughout life, how they adapt at different stages through the life span, and how adult siblings re-conceptualize their sibling relationships (retrospection reflection). Specifically, this study explored the developmental considerations when examining relationships with, effects of, and reactions to a sibling with a disability, and to compare and contrast the issues and themes across the life span. Open ended interviews were held with 12 key informants. The key segments of the interviews were transcribed and then analyzed for reoccurring themes at each stage, and changes across the stages. Insights into the sibling experience at different stages of development were offered and helped make sense of much of the previous quantitative research. What was discovered is that of course developmental periods do influence how siblings are affected, impacted, how they relate to their siblings, and how they cope. This research demonstrated that there are many common themes, sub themes, and facets and although the themes remain quite static across the 3 developmental periods, the underlying characteristics of the themes definitely change as siblings develop. However, this developmental investigation is so complex that there are no easy conclusions and findings differ somewhat in each individual sibling.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Azeez, Cinnamon Christine, "Siblings of people with disabilities: A developmental analysis of the effects, impacts, and patterns of adaptation" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3027175.