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Psychosocial characteristics of preschool siblings of handicapped and nonhandicapped children

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This project examined psychosocial characteristics of 24 preschool-aged siblings of handicapped children in relation to a control group of 22 siblings of nonhandicapped children. Subjects were matched on family size and income, sibling age, birth order, sex, age spacing, and marital status of their parents. Results indicated no statistically significant differences between groups of children on measures of perceived self-competence and acceptance, understanding of developmental disabilities, empathy, and child care responsibility. Significant group differences were found where brothers of handicapped children were rated by their mothers as being more depressed and aggressive than brothers of nonhandicapped control children. Sisters of handicapped children were rated by mothers as being more aggressive than sisters of nonhandicapped children. Sisters of handicapped children and brothers of nonhandicapped children had significantly fewer privileges and more restrictions on their home activities than other groups. Results are discussed in relation to previous research on older silbings of handicapped children and the general literature on family stress and childhood disability and disease. The importance of examining sibling functioning via multiple measures of child behavior is stressed.

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The authors are grateful to the children and families who participated in the project. The assistance of Dr. Ricardo Barrera, Christine DiBlasio, Lisa Kaye, Paola Bellabarba, Jeanne Logozzo, Donna Motley, Jennifer Harter, and Tina Meisell is also gratefully acknowleged. This project was funded by Grant Number G008300345 from the U.S. Department of Education.

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Lobato, D., Barbour, L., Hall, L.J. et al. Psychosocial characteristics of preschool siblings of handicapped and nonhandicapped children. J Abnorm Child Psychol 15, 329–338 (1987).

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