Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Linda Stanhope




sibling, relationships, disabled, maternal stress


In the current research the role of sibling relationship in relation to caregivers’ stress and support levels in families of developmentally disabled children was investigated. Previous research has demonstrated the stresses and benefits both mothers and siblings of special needs children confront in raising and interacting with their child or sibling. Typically developing siblings have been shown to attenuate the disabled siblings’ problematic behaviors-the same behaviors that increase mothers’ stress levels the most (Rodrigue, Geffken, & Morgan, 1990). However, research regarding the effects of disabled siblings on typically developing siblings remains conflicted, such that both highly positive and highly negative outcomes have been found (Cicirelli, 1985; Harvey & Greenway, 1984). The present study closely examined maternal stress and support levels for mothers of special needs children; specifically, maternal stress levels of mothers of only developmentally disabled children were compared to mothers of both typically developing and developmentally disabled children. For the latter, problematic sibling behaviors and positive interactions between the disabled and nondisabled siblings were additionally assessed. The innovative findings of the current research suggest that positive sibling relationships beget enhancing, developmental circumstances for developmentally disabled siblings and are associated with diminished problematic behaviors in the disabled siblings. Further, for all mothers of special needs children, reduced numbers of problematic behaviors in the developmentally disabled children were associated with lessened maternal stress and heightened maternal support. These relationships should be further Maternal Stress and Support and Sibling Relationships investigated to better understand the complexities of the familial relationships in these exceptional families and how sibling relationship is associated with maternal well-being.