Becoming adults together: how having a disabled sibling impacts on young people’s transition to adulthood

Todd, Georgia (2019) Becoming adults together: how having a disabled sibling impacts on young people’s transition to adulthood. MPhil thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis explores how having a sibling with learning disabilities or autism might impact on young people’s thoughts, experiences and aspirations relating to their transition to adulthood. Previous research has highlighted that having a disabled sibling impacts on people’s lives in different ways throughout the life course. Most research has focused on children and adolescent’s experiences or the experiences of older adults. There have been some studies that explore the experiences of young adults who have a disabled sibling. However, these studies mainly focused on young people’s views of service provision and how having a disabled sibling impacts on their plans for the future. The experiences of young adults are underrepresented in research relating to siblings of disabled people. There is also little understanding of how having a disabled sibling impacts on young people’s transition to adulthood.

Therefore, this research aimed to specifically explore the impacts that having a disabled sibling might have on young people’s transition to adulthood. The research aim was approached by focusing on exploring the sibling relationship during the transition to adulthood. The ways in which the transition to adulthood for young people and their disabled sibling might impact on family life was also considered. Finally, the research explored how having a disabled sibling impacts on young people’s transition to adulthood relating to four key markers of becoming an adult. These markers are moving out of the family home, leaving compulsory education, choice of occupation and relationship and family formation. The study used semi-structured qualitative interviews with 10 young people aged 18-24 who have a sibling with autism or learning disabilities to gather young people’s thoughts, aspirations and experiences relating to their transition to adulthood.

One of the key findings of this study is that young people expressed that their sibling relationship changed during their life course. This study also found that young people have provided and do provide support and care to their sibling, sometimes going beyond what might be expected in a sibling relationship. Another key finding is the ways that participants viewed the transition to adulthood for themselves and their disabled sibling as having different impacts on family life. This study also found that having a sibling with autism or learning disabilities impacted on young people’s thoughts, experiences and aspirations relating to moving out of the family home, their occupation choices, their family planning and their adult skill set. Young people’s potential future primary caring role for their sibling impacted on their current lives and future plans.

The findings of this research suggest that young people who have a disabled sibling may experience ‘disability by association’ (Burke, 2010). Participants experienced stigma, stress and anxiety and a sense of being special and different because they have a disabled sibling. For young people in this study there was contention between familialism and individualism. Young people’s transition to adulthood was emotionally and socially linked with their siblings’ and parent’s lives. This suggests that family systems theory and life course perspectives are useful when studying the experiences of people who have a disabled sibling. The findings also suggest that young people’s sibling relationships are affected by other relationships in the micro, meso and exosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1986). The research also has implications for social care practice, social services should offer families advice and support to plan for the potential support role of siblings in the future. Young people should also be involved in the transition planning for their disabled sibling, providing the disabled person and their sibling want this. More funding and research attention is required to further explore siblings’ experiences throughout the life course and to identify the support that families may need.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (MPhil)
Supervisors: Clawson, Rachael E.
Holmwood, John
Keywords: siblings; learning disabilities; young adults;
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 56074
Depositing User: Todd, Georgia
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2019 04:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 09:00
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/56074

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