Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2014


School of Health Sciences




siblings, family, development, counseling, disabilities, children, traits, prosocial, adaptive, effects, growing up, qualitative


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Child Psychology | Counseling | Counseling Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Health Psychology | Multicultural Psychology | Other Psychiatry and Psychology | Other Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychological Phenomena and Processes | Psychology | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Social Welfare


Possible psychosocial benefits resulting from exposure to siblings with disabilities are investigated in the current study. Previous literature has generally overlooked the possibility of psychosocial benefits by exclusively focusing on the negative effects of having a sibling with disabilities. Contact theory suggests that the increased exposure to individuals with disabilities should increase positive attitude toward those who are struggling with disadvantages. This investigation hypothesized that this tendency would be manifested as elevated empathy and compassion in individuals who have siblings with disabilities, and that these traits would be influenced by certain demographic variables. A survey was distributed, and the responses of 182 college-student participants were evaluated using self-report demographic questions and measures of empathy (the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) and compassion (the Care for Others Scale). In addition, an exploratory qualitative inquiry prompted participants to identify other possible benefits they thought they gained from having a sibling with a disability. Scores on the empathy and compassion scales were quantitatively analyzed for demographic variations, and the qualitative responses were analyzed for content themes. Implications of the results are discussed.