Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Family Consumer Human Development


Frank R. Ascione


The effects that each sibling's relative cognitive and physical abilities may have on the quality of sibling interaction are not clearly understood in either nonhandicapped or handicapped sibling dyads. A measure of sibling authority based on behavioral observations of sibling interaction was developed that represents how sibling abilities are translated into sibling power within handicapped and nonhandicapped sibling dyads. This measure of sibling authority was related to the occurrence of prosocial and aggressive behaviors in sibling dyads with and without a child with handicaps. Ninety-three sibling dyads participated. Included were 34 nonhandicapped sibling dyads, 12 sibling dyads in which the older sibling had a handicapping condition, and 47 sibling dyads in which the younger sibling had a handicapping condition. The handicapping conditions were Down Syndrome, mental retardation, or severe hearing impairment. Results indicate that although the older sibling had greater authority overall, younger siblings had greater authority in over half of all sibling dyads. Sibling authority was not found to be dependent specifically on the presence of the handicapping conditions represented in this study nor upon the gender composition of the sibling dyads. Small differences in authority scores between siblings were associated with a greater frequency of prosocial behavior in both siblings. However, there were no significant differences between groups or siblings on the occurrence of either prosocial or aggressive behaviors. Both siblings contributed equally to the positive or negative nature of their interaction regardless of handicapping condition.