UQ study investigates the benefits of siblings for children with autism

31 May 2023
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A University of Queensland study is investigating the influence of sibling relationships in the development of children with and without autism.

Professor Virginia Slaughter from UQ’s School of Psychology said the research may help inform interventions to support children with autism and their families.

“Having siblings is associated with positive development outcomes, however not much is known around the role of siblings in the development of children with autism,” Professor Slaughter said.

“As part of the study, siblings will complete a number of tasks which are designed to measure general thinking, language skills, social understanding, planning and memory.

“Parents will also be asked to complete questionnaires about their family background and the sibling relationship.”

The study is currently recruiting families who have a child aged 2.5 to 8 years old with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and one without.

Participants will attend a two-hour session at the Early Cognitive Development Centre at UQ, and four weeks later the team will visit the family at home for a one-hour session.

The final part of the study will be completed one year later, where the family returns to the Early Cognitive Development Centre for a follow up session.

Professor Slaughter said the quality of sibling relationships has been identified as an important factor in developmental outcomes for typically developing children and can have long term impacts.

“Many children interact with their siblings more than other children or their parents, so they play a very big part in a child’s life as they grow,” Professor Slaughter said.

“Our study is the first large scale investigation of its kind and will help provide greater knowledge of how family structures are associated with developmental outcomes for children with autism.

“It will also help to identify if having a sibling with autism could also be associated with positive social outcomes for a typically developing child.”

The 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers estimated there were over 205,000 Australians with Autism.

 The study is being conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and University of Tasmania.

For more information visit and to register visit the study website.

Media: UQ Communications; Bridget Druery, habs.media@uq.edu.au, +61 435 221 246.