Social Support As a Moderator of the Relation Between Sibling Relationship Attitudes and Depressive Symptoms Among Typically-Developing Adult Siblings of Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: The purpose of the current study was to examine perceptions of social support as a potential protective factor against depressive symptoms among TD adult siblings of those with ASD. It was predicted that perceptions of social support would moderate the relation between child and adult attitudes about the sibling relationship and depressive symptoms.
Methods: Fifty-three typically-developing adult siblings [ages 18-68 (M = 30.58, SD = 13.7); 85% female] of individuals with an ASD participated. Siblings completed a demographic form, the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) to assess perceived overall social support, the Lifespan Sibling Relationship Scale (LSRS; Riggio, 2000) to assess child and adult attitudes about the sibling relationship, and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995) to assess current depressive, anxious, and stress symptoms.
Results: Two separate moderated multiple regression analyses were conducted with sibling gender, age, income, and childhood family size entered in Step 1 as controls. After centering the scores, the predictor variables and moderator variables were entered in Step 2. The interaction terms were entered in Step 3. Results of the first analysis revealed a significant interaction between TD sibling perceptions of social support and TD sibling child relationship attitudes when predicting depressive symptoms in TD siblings, ΔF(1, 45) = 9.19, p = .004, ΔR2 = .088. Results of the second analysis revealed a significant interaction between TD sibling perceptions of social support and TD sibling adult relationship attitudes when predicting depressive symptoms in TD siblings ΔF(1, 45) = 4.44, p = .041, ΔR2 = .045. As expected, interaction plots of both analyses showed that TD siblings who exhibited more negative child and/or adult sibling relationship attitudes and lower levels of perceived social support were more likely to have higher levels of depressive symptoms.
Conclusions: As predicted, perceptions of social support moderated the relations between child and adult sibling relationship attitudes and depressive symptoms among TD adult siblings of those with an ASD after controlling for sibling age, gender, income, and childhood family size. Overall, these results suggest that those siblings with negative attitudes about their sibling relationship and low levels of perceived social support may be at greater risk for depressive symptoms.