Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


The purpose of this study was to explore how non-disabled siblings respond to their siblings with disabilities. My focus was the ways in which growing up with a sibling with a disability impacts the life of the non-disabled person. This study illuminated this perspective by an examination of the experiences, needs, pressures, advantages, and coping mechanisms of non-disabled siblings in families with disabled children. In my qualitative study I used (flexible method), open ended questions, to interview adult non-disabled individuals who grew up with a disabled sibling. The study explored the dynamics between the siblings and between the parents and children. Since this study was qualitative and exploratory in nature, individuals who were interested in participating needed to meet the following criteria: (a) are presently between the ages of 30-60 and (b) a non-disabled sibling who grew up with a physically disabled sibling. This study found that the physically disabled sibling did impact the family, both positively and negatively; birth order affected sibling relations in that the younger non- disabled siblings reported good relations with their disabled sibling, but the sole older sibling reported a poor sibling relationship; gender played a role in sibling relations and birth order perception, in that non-disabled female siblings were regarded as the older sibling, even when younger, yet the younger male was regarded as younger; peer relationship and school experiences were problem areas for the participants; and the participants reported their small communities both knew and supported them, their disabled siblings, and families, which seemed to help the sibling relationship.


iii, 56 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 42-46).