The purpose of this study was to examine sibling relationships and caregiver burden in families raising children with disabilities (CWD). In order to determine (a) are there differences in caregiver burden according to parent gender and types of disability (b) are there differences in sibling relationships according to parent gender and type of disability and (c) is there a relationship between caregiver burden and sibling relationships after controlling for CWD and sibling gender and age, and type of disability? After IRB approval, 166 families living in the west and raising typically developing children (TDC) or a CWD participated. Disabilities included autism; Down syndrome (DS); other disabilities (OD), which included orthopedic impairment, intellectual disabilities, emotional or physical disabilities, health impairment; and multiple disabilities (MD), which included both physical and intellectual disabilities. After consenting, both parents independently completed the 28-item Schaefer Sibling Inventory of Behavior. This inventory ranked sibling behaviors in relation to kindness, involvement, empathy,and avoidance. Additionally a revised version of the Caregiver Strain Index (Robinson, 1983) measuring hassle and frequency of burden was utilized. Mothers completed a demographic questionnaire. Analyses included descriptive statistics, a MANOVA, correlations, and multiple regressions. Results indicated mothers perceived more burden than fathers for all disability types. Parents of children with autism perceived the highest burden, and mothers of TDC and fathers of children with DS perceived the least amount burden. Mothers rated female siblings higher in kindness, involvement, and empathy than male siblings. Whereas, fathers rated siblings of children with OD as least avoidant; as did mothers of children with DS. The highest sibling relationship scores were fathers' rating of empathy in families raising children with DS and mothers' rating of empathy in families raising children with MD. There was a positive relationships between caregiver burden for both parents and between both parent's ratings of sibling empathy, kindness, and involvement. A negative relationship was found between parents'ratings of avoidance and empathy, kindness and involvement. All caregiver burden variables were positively related to avoidance. Siblings may benefit from information regarding a child's disability in order to decrease avoidance behavior. It would also be important to provide interventions/information about respite care and other appropriate community resources to parents of children with autism in order to help decrease the burden they experience. Finally, parents of CWD may benefit from information regarding the effect their perception of burden has on relationships between the child and siblings.



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Mothers, Fathers, Parenting stress, Caregiving, Disabilities, Sibling, Relationships



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Nursing Commons