Are Siblings of Children with Autism More Prone to Behavioural and Psychological Problems as Compared to the General Population?

Ramneeta Kaur Suarn Singh, Shoen Chuen Chiew, Suria Junus, Sheila Gopal Krishnan, Murniyati Abdul Wahid, Winnie HC Ng


Objective: To compare the psychological well-being of siblings of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children versus their parents’ and the general population; and social well-being of these siblings versus their parents’ perspective and the general population.

Methods: A cross-sectional study involving siblings aged 11-17 years and parents of ASD children attending paediatric clinics of two hospitals, was conducted in 2017-2018. Controls were secondary school students living with healthy siblings, matched based on gender, ethnicity and geographical location. Study group pairs and controls filled the Depression, Anxiety and Stress scale (DASS-21) and Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Study group children also answered four open-ended questions.

Results: We recruited 34 study group pairs and 34 controls. Majority of the participating parents in the study group were mothers (79.4%). Most children were Chinese (58.8%) females (67.6%). There was no significant difference of depression, anxiety or stress in the study group children (26.5%, 52.9%, 17.6%) compared to their parents (23.5%, 52.9%, 32.4%) and controls (32.4%, 52.9%, 23.5%). There was a significant difference in the study group children’s SDQ score and their parents’ evaluation (p=0.039). Most parents (76.5%) evaluated their children to have very high SDQ score compared to self-evaluation (55.9%). There was no significant difference of SDQ levels between study group children and controls (p=0.090).

Conclusion: Living with a child with ASD did not significantly alter the behaviour and sense of well-being of their siblings contrary to parental perception.

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Autism; Sibling; Psychological; Social

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