Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Impact on Marital and Sibling Relationships of Taiwanese Families Who Have a Child with a Disability

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Impact on Marital and Sibling Relationships of Taiwanese Families Who Have a Child with a Disability

Article excerpt


Having a child who is identified with a disability often comes as a shock with parents experiencing varied psychological impacts (Gupta & Singhal 2004; Summers, Behr, & Turnbull, 1989). Many researchers have pointed out that parents who have children with disabilities often experience feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment (Blacher & Hatton, 2001; Kang, Lovett, & Haring, 2002; Lamorey, 2002; Wong, Wong, Martinson, Lai, Chin, & He, 2004). Other researchers have identified several similar emotional stages that parents of children with disabilities may go through (Taylor, 2004). These stages include: shock, denial, anger, sadness, detachment, reorganization, and acceptance (Hornby, 2000). While examining psychological adjustment of parents of children with disabilities is an inpcrtant issue in disability-related studies, other researchers are concentrating their efforts on whether having a child with a disability influences marital relationships.

In fact, some professionals have already indicated that having a child with a disability might influence marital relationships in positive, negative, ard mixed directions (Bloom, 1996; Turnbull & Turnbull, 2001). First of all, researchers mentioned that having a child with a disability, including mental retardation, may impair martial relationships due to several factors: unequal distribution of the care-taking tasks, the lack of time for hobbies, and stress concerning children's health (Taanila, Kokkonen, & Jarvelin, 1996; Friedridn & Friedrich, 1981). On the conntrary, many studies showed that having a child with a developmental delay or mental retardation may improve marital relationships (Raghavan, Weisner, & Patel, 1999; Helsel Family, 1985). Having a child with a disability allows couples to understand each other better, to share house work more equally, and to have enhanced opportunities to communicate their stress in order to support one another in providing for the needs of their child with a mental disability.

Less significant effects on martial relationships among parents of children with specific disabilities, including Down syndrome, mental retardation, Diabetes mellitus, and motor disability has bean reported (Gau, Chiu, Soong, & Lee, 2008; Taanila et al., 1996). While research results demonstrated varied findings regarding how having a child with a disability can influence marital and overall family relationships, certain variables may mediate the effect. These factors may include: income, temperament of the individuals involved, religious beliefs, time of disability onset, type of disability, and availability of social services (Benson & Gross, 1989; Helsel Family, 1985; Hodapp & Krasner, 1994; Raghavan et al., 1999). Therefore, having a child with a disability influences marital relationships in a complex manner.

Studies looking at the interaction patterns and relationships between children with disabilities and their sibling have been ccnducted as well (Harris & Glasberg, 2003; Sharpe & Rossiter, 2002). Similar to their parents, children who grow up with siblings with mental disabilities can also experience favorable, unfavorable, or no noticeable impacts. For instance, researchers stated that assuming caregiving responsibility for siblings with Autism expected by parents could be a stressor for nondisabled children (Lin, Tsai, & Chang, 2008). The feeling of parental favoritism toward their siblings with disabilities, including Down syndrome and mental retardation, is a common phenomenon experienced by children without disabilities (Bischoff & Tingstram, 1991). On the other hand, there was no major impact reported among children who have siblings with mental retardation and Autism (McHale, Sloan, & Simeonsson, 1986).

Providing support services, such as group discussion, may assist children in learning how to get along with their siblings who have disabilities as well as help them obtain disabilityrelated knowledge (Dyson, 1998). …

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