Adolescent Perspective of Family Functioning When Living with a Sibling with Autism
Vliem, Sally J.
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(41st Biennial Convention) Purpose: Autism is on the rise at an alarming rate affecting all races and impacting all members of a family including siblings. The purpose of this study was to examine family functioning from the perspective of the adolescent who has a sibling with autism. Methods: An exploratory correlational design using a convenience sample of 97 adolescents aged 11 to 20 whose parents participated in the Interactive Autism Network completed the study measures. The Family Assessment Device (FAD) was completed in an on-line survey format. Qualitative data inquiring about the challenges and positive aspects of having a sibling with autism were collected to help inform the quantitative data. Analysis: Descriptive statistics were used to examine the demographic data as well as each of the subscales from the FAD. A MANOVA was completed to explore the differences in perception of family functioning by gender and by early, middle, and late adolescent age groups. A Hotelling's T was used as a post hoc analysis to determine the location of differences among the variables being examined. A constant comparative analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data. Interpretation of findings: The FAD has established cut off scores for healthy family functioning. The means for each subscale were calculated. Five of the seven subscales (affective involvement, problem solving, communication, roles, and general functioning) revealed that the adolescents in this sample perceived that their families were functioning in the unhealthy range. No differences were found on perception of family functioning when examining age and gender. Using Hotelling's T, there were no significant effects on family functioning related to age or gender, T=.65, F(14, 68) = 1.60, p > .05. The qualitative data supported the quantitative findings demonstrating the complexity of having a sibling with autism.