Research on the families of the disabled suggest that the advent of a child with a disability will cause a far-reaching effect on the mother, father, siblings and the family’s relationship with the outside world. Researchers have differed on the extent and causes of difficulties faced by the siblings, with many inconsistencies and contradictions shown. some studies have found behavioural problems and lowered self-esteem, and others suggest an increase in altruism and compassion. An investigative study was implemented, with siblings from 29 families with a disabled child, matched with siblings from 29 families with no identified disabled sibling. Patterns of family outings, the use of support services and perceptions of difficulties faced by the family were examined. The matched siblings were compared on the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, measures of altruism, and behaviour as seen by both teachers and parents. The children also were questioned on their perception of family cohesion and their involvement with other family members. Major findings of the study were a pattern of social isolation for the families, and perception of isolation within and outside the family for both the parents and the siblings. The siblings scored significantly lower on the Coopersmith Inventory, and parents perceived them as having more behavioural difficulties than the controls’ parents. No significant difference in altruism was found between the two groups of siblings. The finding that some siblings are coping well, whilst others are showing severe difficulties is illustrated by four case studies. A number of limitations of the study are discussed, particularly the wide range of variables investigated, and difficulties with some instruments. Further areas of research are suggested, including exploring the relationships and interactions within the family. It is concluded that for both the siblings and the whole family, the development of strong support networks and help in reframing perceptions and expectations may help to overcome the feelings of intra- family and extra- family isolation.
|Date of Award||1986|