The internet, social support and young siblings of children with special needs

Tichon, Jennifer Gay. (2002). The internet, social support and young siblings of children with special needs PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Tichon, Jennifer Gay.
Thesis Title The internet, social support and young siblings of children with special needs
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2002
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Margaret Shapiro
Ian O'Connor
Total pages 273
Collection year 2002
Language eng
Subjects L
370200 Social Work
750312 Youth/child development and welfare
Formatted abstract Both children and young adolescents are increasingly using the Internet to access both information and join in dialogue with others. As the use of information communication technology increases in the health and human service fields so does the need for research on the new communication processes that occur as a result. This research examines the content and process of the supportive communications shared between the child and adolescent members of an online self-help group for siblings of children with special needs. In particular, the topics of concern to the young participants and their methods in the use of the electronic medium to access social support from peers are explored. The types of social support provided and received by the children and adolescents and their use of self-disclosure to elicit and provide social support over the Internet is also examined.

A theoretical and conceptual framework has been adopted which acknowledges the influence of both developmental issues and environmental issues on child and adolescent concerns. The research design incorporates both quantitative and qualitative content analysis to explore the online supportive communication exchanges. Data, in the form of individual participant's emails posted to an online self-help group, were downloaded directly from the Internet listserv Sibkids and entered into the NUD*IST4 program for analysis.

The qualitative content analysis technique resulted in identification of four core categories of topics of concern to young siblings of children with special needs. Self, My Sibling, My Family, and My Community. These core themes and their sub-categories described the experiences of being a sibling which included struggling with emotions, feeling physically vulnerable and trying to cope with increased care responsibilities. The research findings also illustrated the variety of types of social support participants provided to other group members. The less explicit social companionship support was found to be a frequently utilised support type on the online site. Results also indicated that some topics of concern were more likely to attract certain types of social support.

The supportive communication was found to be interactive in nature with young participants alternating between provider and recipient roles. Self-disclosure emerged as a significant communication dynamic in the online support group being pivotal to both the elicitation and provision of social support. Young participants appeared to move through three stages in their use of self-disclosure (1) to elicit support, (2) to provide support, and (3) to share reciprocal social companionship. The concerns that occupied the attention of the children and adolescents on the site were observed to exert a central organising influence on their use of self-disclosure. A model of child and adolescent mutual aid support processes online was developed from the data.

This study extends the research on childhood and adolescent concerns, what is known of the ability of children and adolescents to act as both providers and recipients of support, and expands the knowledge about self-disclosure processes in children and adolescents in the online context. The research also contributes to the development of a theoretical understanding of the Internet as a social context. The results have implications for supportive interventions with this population and for future research. 
Keyword Children -- Social networks
Internet and children

 
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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:05:07 EST