Jamie L. Carroll is a 2013 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England.


autism, childhood, sibling relationships, role perception, sibling role relationships, sisterhood, human females

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Sibling relationships have been recognized as important in facilitating the acquisition of emotional and social understanding and even assisting in cognitive development (Sanders, 2004). Sibling relationships that include one child with a disability are especially significant and worthy of study, as typical siblings tend to take on more responsibility for their siblings' care across their lifespan (Cicirelli, 1995). In attempting to understand these sibling relationships in childhood, past researchers have largely relied on parent report and behavioral observations. In order to advance the field's understanding of sibling relationships when one child autism, this study asked children to voice their perspectives and share their experiences. More specifically, four school-aged girls who had an older brother with autism were asked to individually complete a kinetic family drawing and participate in a semi-structured interview. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was then utilized to investigate these girls' constructed meanings of sisterhood. Analysis resulted in the discovery of superordinate and emergent themes relevant to role enactments, the felt experience of these roles, and the significance of togetherness. Additional themes appearing particularly relevant to sistering a brother with autism were also discovered. These superordinate and emergent themes are described in detail and are then considered in terms of alignment and departure from the existent literature. Lastly, limitations of this study and implications for clinical work and future research are addressed.