A survey of sibling attitudes toward the retarded child



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The attitudes of siblings of the retarded child are a concern to the parents of a family with a retardate. Despite the need for information on the subject, limited research has been directed to this query in the minds of parents of retarded children. This survey attempted to evaluate the feelings and attitudes of the siblings toward their retardate and toward the family problem itself. An explanatory letter with questionnaires was mailed to 535 families with retardates in the Houston area. The questionnaires covered phases of possible tension or resentment toward the handicapped child, and were to be completed privately by the children in each family. The response was 35.5% including those families that could not participate because of lack of siblings or immaturity of siblings. The sample used consisted of 195 young people with a retarded brother or sister. The normal siblings ranged in age from eight through thirty-six years, with one to nine siblings per family. The retardates ranged from one year through thirty-five years of age. The great breadth of the sample made it possible to analyze groups composed of preteens, teens, adults, males, females, in addition to sibs younger than the retardates, and sibs with the retardate in an institution. The study also attempted to determine if degree of retardation had any effect upon the normal sibling's feelings. Despite the numerous approaches to the subject, the results were basically similar. Most normal brothers and sisters of retarded children have a genuine affection, an open acceptance, and a real concern for their limited sibling. Furthermore, the majority were not uncomfortable about the family problem and did not feel that it threatened their interpersonal relationships with peers. There were differences among the groups, however. The general pattern of acceptance seemed to parallel the maturation of the individual. The degree of acceptance improved from the preteen to the adult group. The male sib appeared to be a little more critical of the effects of the problem — a reaction probably due to his cultural role and an involvement that did not equal that of a sister. The younger sibs demonstrated more awareness of public reactions to oddities of appearance, but they did not show any unusual difficulties in their adjustment. In some areas, their percentage of favorable reactions was higher than the total sample. The acceptance of a child with a retardate in an institution appeared to be slightly lower than those with the limited child at home. This difference maybe a result of the fact that some of these children have not had the opportunity to adjust to the problem on a day to day basis. The minor differences that existed under these special circumstances, however, were not as significant as the similarities of the groups and the general response of love and acceptance for the handicapped child. These young people felt that retardation was not an overwhelming tragedy and they had learned to take the situation very much in stride.



Children with mental disabilities, Family relationships