Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Brothers and sisters, People with disabilities-Family relationships, People with mental disabilities-Family relationships, Identity (Psychology), Identity formation, Self-concept, Sibling(s), Brothers, Sisters, Adults, Self


This study sought to answer the question "What is the long-term impact on the identity formation of adults who grew up with a disabled sibling?" The bulk of literature exploring the impact of a sibling's disability on his/her non-disabled sibling focuses primarily on children. With so few studies asking non-disabled adult siblings about their experience, however, the research examining this unique relationship lacks depth and scope. In exploring this relationship through an adult lens, there were two primary hypotheses: 1) non-disabled siblings would report having an experience that was rich with both rewards and challenges, and 2) this relationship would have indelibly shaped their self concept and their identity. The study took a qualitative, exploratory approach. The researcher interviewed twelve participants, two men and ten women between the ages of 21 and 58. Their sibling's disabilities covered a range of diagnoses from autism to Down Syndrome to spina bifida. Seven of the participant's siblings were identified as being significantly to severely disabled and four of the DS were identified as being moderately disabled. There were several findings of the study which were divided into eight major categories. Some of these categories touched on how and when participants obtained knowledge of their sibling's disability and the relevance of this knowledge. It also explored each participant's perception of how their sibling's disability shaped their sense of self, others, and the world. These findings highlighted the formative nature of this relationship and the role of disability therein, on adult siblings' identities.




iv, 133 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 121-124)