Sibling disability and children's reactivity to conflicts involving family members

Charisse Nixon, E. Mark Cummings

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Although rarely considered, siblings may significantly affect families in ways that have implications for other children's functioning, especially when the siblings' problems pose special difficulties. This study examined how having a disabled sibling predicted children's reactions to the everyday stress of family-related conflicts. Thirty children with a disabled sibling (15 boys, 15 girls) and 30 with nondisabled siblings (15 boys, 15 girls) responded to a series of disputes involving other family members. Having a disabled sibling predicted sensitization to these everyday family stresses, including more emotional distress; more expected involvement, perceived threat, and personal responsibility; more active coping strategies; and lower thresholds of conflict intensity for responding. Children with disabled siblings also evidenced more adjustment problems. Although developmental outcomes of challenging family circumstances may vary considerably for individual children, these results demonstrate the potential significance of siblings to the functioning of other children in the family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-285
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 1999


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

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