Siblings of Adults with Learning Disabilities: An Empirical Study


  • Valerie Gant University of Chester, Warrington


Adult siblings, sibling support, social work, learning disability, carers


Adult siblings are frequently providers of care for their brother or sister with a learning disability* and many take on many levels of responsibility, which often lasts for decades. The majority of research focusing on siblings of people with learning disabilities comes from the perspective of those aged under 18. This paper draws on the work of Rawson (2012) and Pompeo (2009) to focus attention on adult siblings. This study, examined the relationships adult siblings have with their brother or sister with a learning disability. Fourteen participants were involved, in-depth interviews were conducted to gather data that was thematically analysed. The findings revealed that siblings want to be involved in the life of their brother or sister and to be seen as next of kin by professionals when their parents have died, but yet are unsure how best to approach this prospect. Based on these findings, implications for practitioners are discussed.

* Please note that throughout this paper I refer to ‘adults with learning disabilities’ as this is the terminology currently in common usage in the UK, referring to what was traditionally seen as individuals with an I.Q of below 70.  I recognise that alternative terminology is in use internationally and that ‘learning disability’ is itself a label and that a more holistic approach  is needed.