Ethnicity Impacts Sibling Experience In Special Needs Families
Cultural factors may play a significant role in defining the outcomes of siblings of those with developmental disabilities, a new study finds, affecting whether or not siblings experience anxiety, trouble with school and other challenges.
In a study of 200 siblings ages 8 to 15 — half of whom had a brother or sister with a disability and half of whom had a typically developing sibling — researchers found that Latino siblings of those with developmental disabilities were significantly more likely than other children to internalize anxiety and other psychological issues.
What’s more, Latino children were reluctant to share negative feelings about their sibling’s disability and they exhibited a higher rate of school absences and lower academic grades, according to the study published online in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. These children also had more difficulty with coping skills and in dealing with their parents.
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“When a child has a disability, all members of the family are affected, including siblings,” said the study’s lead author Debra Lobato, a researcher at Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center in East Providence, R.I. “However, little attention has been paid to the influence of cultural factors on the functioning of siblings.”
In the case of Latino siblings, Lobato and her colleagues found that such children had greater family responsibilities as compared to their peers from other cultural groups, which may contribute to their struggles. For example, in some cases Latino parents said their typically developing child missed school because they were helping translate during a medical appointment for their brother or sister with a disability.
Researchers say the findings indicate that clinicians should take a closer look at the impact that disability has on siblings.
“Our findings suggest that family-based, culturally sensitive services acknowledge the importance of siblings every step of the way,” Lobato said. “This might include proactively conducting screening assessments of sibling functioning as well as active consideration of siblings’ perspectives and needs when treatment plans are developed and renewed.”