The impact of having a sibling diagnosed with a disability on one's level of acceptance for others

Elyssa Sperber, Pace University


Research shows that having a sibling diagnosed with a disability can significantly affect the typically developing sibling in both positive and negative ways. Ultimately, the family environment and parental treatment features are impacted by an individual with a J disability. Further, typically developing siblings of individuals diagnosed with a disability have been found to be more accepting of other individuals diagnosed with a disability. This study examined whether young adults who had a sibling diagnosed with a disability showed differing levels of acceptance for others diagnosed with a disability as compared to individuals with unaffected siblings. Parental care and overprotection features in affected families were analyzed as compared to unaffected families in order to assess whether this had an impact on the acceptance levels. Further, acceptance views for individuals from differing groups than themselves (i.e., sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion) were assessed as a possible impact of having a sibling diagnosed with a disability. The sample consisted of 45 individuals with a sibling diagnosed with a disability and 98 individuals with typically developing siblings. Each participant completed the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI; Parker, Tupling & Brown, 1979), Personal Attribute Inventory (Parish, Bryant & Shirazi, 1976), Scale of Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons (SADP; Antonak, 1981), a modified Disability Social Distance Scale (DSDS; Tringo, 1970), and the modified Bogardus Social Distance Scale (Bogardus, 1975). Results revealed that the individuals with diagnosed siblings were significantly more accepting of individuals diagnosed with a disability on two of the three measures assessing this construct. Type of disability and length of time living with the diagnosed sibling did not impact acceptance level for the individuals with diagnosed siblings. However, these acceptance views were not generalizable to people from differing groups than themselves. Maternal care was found to be significantly lower for the individuals with a diagnosed sibling. However, maternal overprotection, and paternal care and overprotection were not found to be effected. Further, these parental features did not moderate the acceptance levels. Implications of this study indicate that individuals with a diagnosed sibling receive lower levels of maternal care which may place these individuals at greater risk for maladjustment. Educating parents of the lower levels of care given to these individuals is essential. Specifically, encouragement for cohesion within the family, appropriate communication and emotional bonding, despite the lower levels of care will likely have positive effects for all family members. Additionally, the need for support groups for this age cohort was stressed by many participants as it is currently desired yet lacking. And ultimately, this study adds to the current literature regarding the positive impact a sibling diagnosed with a disability can have within the young adult population.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Sperber, Elyssa, "The impact of having a sibling diagnosed with a disability on one's level of acceptance for others" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3319537.



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