Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Karl R. White


Karl R. White


Blaine Worthen


Keith Checketts


Frank Ascione


Donald Sisson


A number of previous researchers have concluded a higher incidence of behavioral and psychological problems exists among children who are siblings of children with disabilities than among children whose siblings have no disabilities. There is some evidence in previous research that the incidence of behavioral and psychological problems may be attributable to differences in sib ling interaction patterns; specifically, frequency of interaction, imitation, agonism, dominance, and prosocial behavior. In this study, observational techniques were used to determine imitation, agonism, dominance, and prosocial behavior for two groups of children: 1) those whose siblings were disabled, and 2) those whose siblings had no disabilities. Non-observational techniques were used to assess several family factors. The Battelle Developmental Inventory was used to measure severity of disability.

ANCOVA comparisons (using family variable s as covariates) showed a higher frequency of agonism (F1,70 = 9.69, p = .003), and a low frequency of dominance (F1,64 = 5.24, p = .025) in children with a disability as opposed to their non-disabled comparisons. However, no significant differences were found among the siblings of these children. Statistically significant differences in behavior were found in comparisons between children without disabilities and children with specific disabilities (hearing impaired, Down syndrome, and developmentally delayed) for agonism (F3,70 = 6.371, p = .001) and dominance (F3,71 = 3.087, p = .033). Statistically significant differences between levels of dominance (F3,69 = 2.798, p = .046) and prosocial behavior (F3,69 = 4.206, p = .009) to the siblings without disabilities as compared to children with hearing impairments, Down syndrome, or developmental delay were found. Severity of disability was not statistically significantly related to any of the dependent variables.

Differences in interaction patterns can only be viewed as a potential contributing factor in an elevated incidence of behavior only as it relates to specific disabilities. The practice of grouping subjects from various disability groups for research purposes can be misleading.



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