Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study explores the structure of the self in people who grew up with a sibling with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This research utilized a quantitative survey to assess their representations of self. D.W. Winnicott's theory of True and Self guided this investigation. The study utilized self-report to explore participants' identification with True and Self characteristics. Questions were phrased in past and present tense as a means of assessing how participants' representations of self have changed over time. At the end of the survey, participants were asked two open-ended questions which generated qualitative data and resulted in a mixed-method study. The sample (N=33) was gathered from an online group called SibNet, defined as "the internet's first listserv for adult brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and emotional needs." Inclusion criteria for research participants were that they must be 18 years of age or older and have at least one brother or sister with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Findings showed higher scores on Self measures than True Self measures. The change in responses from "past" to "present" in both the True and Self measures was statistically significant—suggesting that siblings' representations of self have an evolving quality about them. Furthermore, the change was larger for True Self than Self. Participants' narratives contained strong associations with Self characteristics, as well as themes such as gaining an improved ability to relate to others, and choosing a career in a helping profession.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iv, 88 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 72-73)