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Siblings of mentally disabled face own lifelong challenges, according to researchers
Date:12/9/2008

e disabled brother or sister than those in the comparison group. However, they were significantly less likely to have contact with the disabled sibling, reporting an average of 13 fewer contacts a year with their disabled sibling than the comparison group. In addition, they reported feeling less emotionally close to their siblings.

"These findings suggest siblings of those with low IQs tend to live closer to their families," said Taylor, who is now an assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University. "But we found, in the end, their physical proximity is often offset by a lower level of emotional attachment."

The researchers also found those who had a brother with a mental illness had lower levels of psychological well-being than those in the comparison group. They did not see this effect when looking at those who had a sister with a mental illness. This suggests genetics may not be the only link to poor mental health among siblings of the mentally ill, but the social relationship is also important.

"Our study suggests environmental and social factors also play a role in why these siblings may be at a greater risk for poor mental health," said Taylor. "The good news is we found having a mentally disabled sibling did not seem to have an effect on whether the person got married or had children."

The data for this study were obtained from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. The study includes approximately 10,000 people who were first surveyed after they graduated from high schools in Wisconsin in the mid-1950s. These men and women were periodically surveyed throughout their lifetime. The participants were surveyed most recently in 2005 when they were in their mid-60s.


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Contact: Audrey Hamilton
ahamilton@apa.org
202-336-5706
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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