A Study of the Wellbeing of Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Sibling Efficacy, Positive and Negative Affect, and Coping Strategies

  •  Emily Habelrih    
  •  Richard Hicks    
  •  Daisy Vanstone    


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) include pervasive developmental disorders characterised by communication deficits, difficulty with social understanding, and repetitive behaviors. Few studies have compared the efficacy, affect, and coping strategies of siblings of typically developing children with siblings of children with ASD. Typically developing siblings are understood to be at an increased risk of externalising and internalising problems. The current study examined whether siblings of children with ASD differed in levels of efficacy, affect, and coping from siblings of typically developing children. Participants (156) included an Australia-wide sample involving 82 siblings of children with ASD, and 74 siblings of typically developing individuals. Participants completed The Self-Efficacy Scale for Children (assessing social, emotional, and academic efficacy), the Positive and Negative Affect Scales, the Brief COPE Scale, and other scales as part of the larger study. Results showed that ASD siblings reported lower scores on emotional efficacy, social efficacy, and positive affect, and higher negative affect, than did the comparison group siblings. However, no significant differences were found in coping strategies or academic efficacy between the ASD siblings and the typically developing siblings. Consistent with earlier research findings, there are perceived negative effects or risks from being a sibling of an individual with ASD, suggesting support interventions may assist the development of emotional and social efficacy and increased positive affect for these individuals.

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