Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 383–394 | Cite as

Sibling Relationships When a Child Has Autism: Marital Stress and Support Coping

  • Jessica Wood Rivers
  • Zolinda StonemanEmail author


Family systems theory was employed to study sibling relationships in 50 families with a child with autism. Typically developing siblings expressed satisfaction with their sibling relationships. Parents were somewhat less positive about the sibling relationship than were the siblings themselves. As hypothesized, stress in the marital relationship was associated with compromised sibling relationships. Informal social support buffered the deleterious effects of marital stress on positive, but not negative, aspects of the sibling relationship. Contrary to predictions, families experiencing high marital stress who sought greater support from formal resources external to the family had typically developing siblings who reported a higher level of negative sibling behaviors than families who sought low levels of formal support. Findings reinforce the importance of considering family context as a contributor to the quality of the sibling relationship.

Marital stress siblings support coping 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autism ConsultantPortsmouth
  2. 2.Institute on Human Development and DisabilityThe University of GeorgiaUSA

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