Pediatricians and other health care providers should ask parents if they've seen signs of misbehavior in the siblings and suggest mental health screening if the responses warrant it, Goudie said. "If you can get at the mental health issues sooner, it may be a lot easier to intervene. Nip it in the bud," he advised.
One expert said the findings rang true, but noted limitations to the study. "The way the data was collected, it's like a snapshot in time, and it would be great to be able to track or show that when the parents were under more stress, there were exacerbated problems with the brothers and sisters," said Adam Carle, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.
In some ways, the study may have underestimated the impact of having a disabled sibling, Carle added. Children who don't misbehave may be shouldering their troubles in ways that are less obvious to parents. "Kids who are throwing a fit in school or not listening are brought in [to get counseling], but the ones who go off to their rooms and are quiet, they may not get noticed," he said.
Learn more about children with disabilities from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.
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