Siblings of children with disabilities and corresponding parent attitudes and behaviors

Loren Napoli, Pace University


This study investigated sibling adjustment and parenting attitudes and behaviors in families with a child who is disabled. Relevant research is reviewed, including literature regarding sibling development within a typical family system as well as family dynamics associated with the special case of a sibling with special needs. Anchored in attachment theory and prior research (Fonagy, Target, Gergely, Allen, & Bateman, 2004), it is hypothesized that particular elements of parenting contribute to a protective influence for the sibling of a child with a disability. Specifically, this study, also drawing on constructs and methods linked to Parent Development Theory (PDT), examines the correspondence between behaviors of siblings of children with special needs and parental attitudes towards bonding, responsivity, sensitivity (Mowder, 2005), as well as encouragement of child expressiveness (Saarni, 1989). The final sample was comprised of 30 families, recruited from multiple programs and schools in Manhattan and Long Island that service children with special needs and disabilities. Parents completed questionnaires regarding family demographics, parent behaviors and attitudes, and behaviors of the sibling of their child with special needs. Results find significant associations between self-report of parent attitudes and behaviors and sibling problem behaviors. When parents reported to behave with responsivity and sensitivity toward their children, siblings of a child with a disability, they also reported fewer behaviors related to anxiety and depression in these siblings. Limitations, strengths, suggestions for future research, and clinical implications are then discussed.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Napoli, Loren, "Siblings of children with disabilities and corresponding parent attitudes and behaviors" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3318587.



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