How do typically developing siblings of autistic children experience the parent child relationship? A qualitative study of attachment and ambiguous loss in young children living in Ireland
Citation:Harrison, Paula, How do typically developing siblings of autistic children experience the parent child relationship? A qualitative study of attachment and ambiguous loss in young children living in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin. School of Social Work and Social Policy, 2023
Paula Harrison PHD final edit.pdf (Doctoral thesis - final, approved version) 9.037Mb
This thesis is about children, childhood and the parent child relationship in Ireland in the context of Autism Spectrum Disorder and these issues are explored qualitatively, primarily from the typically developing child’s perspective. Based on accounts related by 13 families around Ireland elicited by interview, this thesis presents a qualitative analysis of experiences shared by 15 typically developing children, 12 mothers and eight fathers who live in this context. Throughout the research process, reflexive strategies were employed. The research design, data generation, data analysis and the presentation of findings were guided by thematic analysis principles and practices such as, purposive sampling, constant comparison, memo writing and a thematic representation of findings. The study explores how typically developing siblings of autistic children experience the everyday eventualities of being a child, being a sibling and the interaction of these against a backdrop of a home life that, according to academic accounts, can be uniquely challenging. The study is concerned with how a child’s diagnosis of autism comes to bear on the typically developing child’s engagement with their parents, how they manage this relationship in times of stress and how they experience life at home in considering this. The study also examines parent’s perceptions of their typically developing children and their relationship with them with a view to adding context and triangulating parent accounts with those from typically developing children. Thematic analysis saw three overarching themes emerge from the data namely; The ‘forever change’ for the family wrought by diagnosis, the parent and child’s experience of the ‘push pull’ of parenting amplified, and finally ‘childhood interrupted’ for the child. These are each discussed in relation to, ambiguous loss for the child connected to contextual and relational changes to the parent child relationship; disappointed anticipation for the child characterised by parenting that can be inconsistent and unpredictable; and the loss of the typically developing sibling’s status as a child in a home context where parents require them to be more than a child when necessary. The importance of the parent child relationship for the typically developing sibling was clear in accounts. Despite evidence that all participant families strive towards resilient family coping, typically developing children expressed their awareness that the family operated on a hierarchy of needs determined by the autistic child’s condition and accounts suggest that they simultaneously understood and protested against this. In the light of this, this study argues that typically developing children in this context should be seen as persons who may be in distress, and that family interventions should prioritise the parent child relationship as a variable amenable to change in this context.
Author: Harrison, Paula
Qualification name:Postgraduate Doctor
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available