Journal Article

Brothers and Sisters of Disabled Children: The Experience of Disability by Association

Peter Burke

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 6, pages 1681-1699
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online August 2009 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Brothers and Sisters of Disabled Children: The Experience of Disability by Association

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This paper examines the impact of childhood disability on brothers and sisters in the family. Evidence is drawn from two research studies undertaken by the author, mainly within the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire region of the UK, and demonstrates that siblings experience ‘disability by association’ due to the interactive effect of living with a disabled brother or sister. The intent is not to suggest that disability itself is causal in this relationship; rather, it is to improve our understanding of how disability impacts on the family, is reacted to by others in the wider social setting and how, in turn, this impacts on siblings. This research comments on the family experience, utilising both quantitative and qualitative data drawn from 116 families with 344 children, of whom 118 had a disability. The experience of living with a disabled brother or sister is evidenced by both positive and negative effects on the families participating in the research. Themes explored include the nature of siblings' caring activities, disadvantage and restrictions, together with a need to inform professional assessments of sibling needs.

Keywords: Association; disability; participation; stigma

Journal Article.  7168 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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