Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Educational and School Psychology

First Advisor

Victoria B. Damiani, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

William F. Barker, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lynanne Black, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Edward M. Levinson, Ed.D.


Research on people who have siblings with developmental disabilities has focused minimally on the career aspirations of these individuals. It has been speculated that children who grow up with siblings with disabilities gravitate toward the helping professions. Until recently, research has explored this relationship quantitatively with mixed results. Recent studies have moved to a qualitative approach when investigating this unique population. This study utilized descriptive and qualitative methods when analyzing the variables that may influence one’s career choice. The present study investigated variables of sex, birth order, and size of family on vocational preference. Influences of siblings, parents, and the school were explored. Motivations for career choice were also examined. The sample consisted of adolescents and their parents, all of whom completed questionnaires. Student participants also completed the Self- Directed Search (SDS). Interviews were conducted to explore themes and commonalities among the participants with regard to the life experiences of having a sibling with a disability and the influence that the experiences may have had on their planned vocational pursuits. Quantitative analyses revealed no significant differences between students who had a sibling with a disability and those who did not with regard to their interest in a helping profession. There was no significant difference regarding sex, birth order or family size despite the evidence that exists in the literature. Statistical significance was found for those who reported an interest in a helping profession and having a social (S) personality type regardless of their sibling status. Five students and their mothers participated in interviews. All interviewees had one sibling with mental retardation and/or autism. Several themes emerged that provided evidence that one’s experience with his/her sibling and the opportunities that occur because of the sibling’s disability, often promote an interest in helping others. This research complements the existing literature related to siblings of those with disabilities and vocational education and provides a holistic view of the population of high school age siblings, which has been understudied. The parent perspective was also offered, which is absent in the literature. Finally, this study offers recommendations for future sibling research.