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Sibling relationships or children with autistic, mentally retarded, and nonhandicapped brothers and sisters

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The subjects were 90 children between 6 and 15 years of age, 30 with autistic, 30 with mentally retarded, and 30 with nonhandicapped brothers or sisters. The children were questioned about their sibling relationships in an openended interview, and, in the case of children with handicapped siblings, they also responded to questions about particular problems they faced in regard to their brothers or sisters. In addition, mothers filled out a behavior rating scale in which they described the positive and negative aspects of their children's behavior toward the sibling. In general, children and mothers rated the sibling relationships positively. Group comparisons indicated that children with autistic and mentally retarded siblings did not differ on any self-report measures. Children with nonhandicapped siblings reported that their family relations were slightly more cohesive but otherwise did not differ in terms of their self-reports from children with handicapped siblings. Mothers of nonhandicapped children, however, rated the sibling relationships more negatively than did mothers of handicapped children. Further analyses revealed that status variables (age, gender, family size) were not as highly correlated with the quality of sibling relationships with handicapped children as were specific problem areas (e.g., perceptions of parental favoritism, coping ability, concerns about the hahdicapped child's future).

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McHale, S.M., Sloan, J. & Simeonsson, R.J. Sibling relationships or children with autistic, mentally retarded, and nonhandicapped brothers and sisters. J Autism Dev Disord 16, 399–413 (1986).

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