The same and different: A grounded theory of the experiences of college students who have a sibling with a developmental disability
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Research on people who have a sibling with a disability has focused minimally on the experiences of college students who have a sibling with a disability and generally focused on specific aspects and outcomes instead of a more holistic view. Much of the prior research was also conducted during a time when the climate around disabilities was different. This study took a contemporary and broad view of how college students with a sibling with a developmental disability experience college.
This study used a qualitative methodology, constructivist grounded theory, to explore the experiences of college students with a sibling with a developmental disability. There were nine initial participants in the study and seven participants who completed the study. All had at least one sibling with a developmental disability and were either currently enrolled in an undergraduate institution or had graduated within two years. The seven participants who completed the study were each interviewed three times and many also shared academic papers or admissions essays that related to their sibling or disability issues.
Data from the multiple in-depth interviews and documents were analyzed and the emergent theory was grounded in the data and described the experiences of college students who have a sibling with a disability. This theory contained a core category and five key categories. The core category, which incorporates the essence of participants' experiences, is My Experience in College is the Same and Different. There are five key categories related to the core category: Lessons Learned from Siblings, Having a Sibling Shapes My Personal Traits, Having a Sibling Plays a Role in My College Choices, Having a Sibling Contributes to My Academic Experiences, and Being a Sibling in My Social Interactions.
This research contributes to the literature by providing a holistic and contemporary look at a sub-population of college students that has been understudied. It also offers important recommendations for future sibling research as well as ways for colleges to support siblings. As a qualitative study, it offers an in-depth look at college student siblings and demonstrates the complexity of their experience.