A comparison of attitudes and knowledge towards autism based on adult sibling experiences

Victoria Morris, Gillian Hendry, Claire Wilson, Karri Gillespie-Smith, Carrie Ballantyne*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Studies examining relationships between neurotypical and autistic siblings have reported inconsistent findings when focussing on children and adolescents, with little research investigating adult autistic sibling relationships. This is of particular interest as siblings can often take over the guardianship or care of a sibling when their parents are no longer able to. The current study examined knowledge and attitudes of adult siblings towards autism. 50 mixed sibling types (autistic sibling + neurotypical sibling) & 59 matched sibling types (neurotypical sibling + neurotypical sibling) completed knowledge and attitude questionnaires. In addition, a thematic analysis of responses provided by neurotypical siblings from the mixed sibling types was used to explore experiences with autism based on sibling relationships. Results showed a non-significant difference of attitudes towards autism and a significant difference in knowledge of autism. From the thematic analyses four themes were identified: Robbed Childhood, Sibling over Self, Concerns for the Future, and Autism Awareness. The study found that having a sibling diagnosed with autism can predict knowledge of autism, however, knowledge of autism does not drive attitudes, therefore further research is needed to understand which factors drive neurotypical sibling attitudes since attitudes predict behaviour. The qualitative research showed mixed experiences within childhood and adulthood, with implications on care in the future. The adult perspectives of the autistic sibling relationships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Adult Development
Early online date2 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2023


  • autism
  • sibling relationships
  • attitudes
  • knowledge
  • adulthood


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