Effect of Sibling Relationships on Well-being and Depression in Adults with and without Developmental Disabilities
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Siblings are an integral part of the support network for adults with a developmental disability (DD). However, little is known about the psychological stress of having a sibling with a DD in adulthood. This project had four main objectives: (1) to identify variables that predict and moderate psychological well-being and depressive symptoms in adults who have a sibling with a DD; (2) to examine differences in sibling relationship characteristics, psychological well-being, depressive symptoms, and support use in siblings of individuals with a DD alone versus siblings of individuals with a DD and symptoms of a mental illness; (3) to determine whether relationships with siblings with a DD differ from relationships with siblings without a DD; and (4) to explore the perspectives of adults with a DD regarding their sibling relationships and how these relationships affect their well-being. One-hundred ninety six adult siblings of individuals with a DD completed online questionnaires about life events, relationship closeness, sibling contact, impact of having a sibling with a DD, family functioning, use of supports, symptoms of depression, and psychological well-being. Life events and having a sibling with a DD and behavioural or psychiatric symptoms predicted symptoms of depression and psychological well-being. However, the relationship between these predictor variables and psychological well-being was moderated by general family functioning. Additionally, siblings of individuals with a DD and behavioural or psychiatric symptoms reported less positive feelings about their sibling relationship, more symptoms of depression, and lower psychological well-being than siblings of individuals with a DD alone. A subset of the participants (n = 128) who also had a sibling without a DD completed questionnaires about their relationship closeness, sibling contact, and perceived impact of their sibling without a DD. Participants reported more in-person and telephone contact with siblings with a DD, more positive feelings about the sibling relationship, and greater perceived life impact as compared to their relationship with their sibling without a DD. Seventeen adults with a DD also completed in-person interviews and answered questions about their sibling relationship closeness, shared activities, and support exchanged with siblings. Participants identified numerous activities they enjoyed doing with siblings and indicated a desire to spend more time with siblings. They also reported that they both provided support to and received support from their siblings.