International Meeting for Autism Research: Frequency of and Risk Factors for Behavior and Emotional Problems in Siblings of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Frequency of and Risk Factors for Behavior and Emotional Problems in Siblings of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
9:00 AM
T. E. Hemming , Psychology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
F. Hurewitz , Department of Psychology, Drexel University, Phila, PA
D. S. Mandell , Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
Background: Siblings of children with autism may be at increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems. The presence of a child with autism in a family may affect the siblings directly, or indirectly through stress or financial strain on the parents, or by reducing the parent’s ability to devote time to the sibling. Previous studies of siblings of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders have found several demographic factors that increase risk for emotional and behavioral problems in these siblings  — specifically being the older sibling, being male, having only two children in the family, and low socioeconomic status. The generalizability of these findings, however, is limited due to the small sample sizes in these studies. The current study identifies specific behaviors and emotional states among siblings of children with autism, including interpersonal conflicts, depression, and anxiety, and examines their associations with socio-demographic factors.  Objectives: The purpose of this study is to identify factors that affect the needs, and emotional and behavioral manifestations of siblings of individuals with autism.
Methods: Survey data for this study currently is being collected from the Pennsylvania Autism Needs Assessment. A letter describing the survey was delivered to 30,000 Medicaid-enrolled individuals in Pennsylvania with a claim for autism-related services  in 1999, 2004, or 2009. Individuals then could request a paper copy of the survey (in English or Spanish) or complete it online. The survey asked questions about services available to the siblings of the individual with autism (family counseling, sibling support groups, and sibling mental health counseling), behaviors of the sibling (aggression, anxiety and interpersonal conflicts), clinical presentation of the child with autism, and demographic factors (birth order, sex, parents’ marital status and workforce participation).
Results: Data collection is ongoing. As of November, 2009, more than 2,000 surveys have been returned. Reported results will include an analysis of risk factors, both demographic and based on the functional level and needs of the child with autism, which contribute to increased risk of behavioral and emotional needs in siblings.
Conclusions: By identifying the factors that may place siblings of children with autism at risk, the field can begin to focus on how to improve the quality of life for these individuals, who act as caregivers, teachers, and advocates for their siblings.
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