Children’s drawings needed for sibling relationship study from Telethon Kids
The Sector > Research > Children’s drawings needed for sibling relationship study from Telethon Kids

Children’s drawings needed for sibling relationship study from Telethon Kids

by Freya Lucas

February 08, 2023

Australian children aged between four and twelve years of age are being asked to create their best drawing of themselves and their siblings as part of a Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia exploration into sibling relationships.


Led by PhD student Caitlin Gray, the research is part of a wider project investigating the experiences of children who grow up with a sibling or siblings with disability or a chronic medical condition.


Although the aim is to understand more about families who have children with such conditions – in particular how siblings of these children could be better supported – the researchers are keen to receive drawings from as many children as possible who have siblings.


“We really want to hear from children who do have siblings with a disability or chronic condition, but we are also very keen to hear from children in families where this isn’t the case so we can compare sibling experiences across different types of families,” Ms Gray said.


The drawings, she continued, could reveal valuable information about how children were feeling and how they related to their siblings.


“Drawing is such an easy and natural form of communication for children, and it’s a way of capturing their knowledge and feelings without them actually telling us.” 


“We’re interested in finding out how drawings of siblings may be influenced by age, family size, gender, and presence of disability among the children. We’re also interested in learning at what age aspects of sibling disability are reflected in drawing.”


Disability research to date has largely focused on the child or children living with disability, however Ms Gray hopes her work will “turn the focus outward” to other children in the family. 


“The circumstances of siblings have been largely neglected by research and policy, but there’s an increasingly urgent push to understand more about this group,” she said. 


“When there’s a child in the family with disability, or even a chronic condition like diabetes or asthma, much of the focus tends naturally to be on that child.”


“They tend to need more medical appointments, more time with their parents, and it can put a strain on family resources, create a challenging home environment, and limit opportunities for siblings.”


Ms Gray said that as well as facing some challenges, the siblings of children with disabilities also gain a lot from their relationships.


“We know that often children who grow up with a sibling who has special needs or is living with a chronic illness often learn some important skills that they carry through to adulthood,” she said.


“They often learn to be empathetic and caring from a very young age and siblings can become very strong advocates for their brother or sister as they face additional challenges, which creates a really special bond.”


The drawing study will offer a window into the feelings of such children while still young, and help demonstrate how their experiences may differ from other children. This, researchers hope, will help fill in the picture across the life course, in turn helping to guide and develop new models of support for siblings who may be vulnerable.


“This study is so fun and simple but it could give us really valuable insights that we can use to help families who live every day with added challenges,” Ms Gray said.


Participation is open to children anywhere in Australia aged between four and twelve years, with at least one sibling. 


Parents complete a short survey, and submit a photo of the child’s drawing. Drawings should be on A4 paper, and be completed using pencils, crayons or pens. 


Families who participate can enter a draw to have a chance to win one of ten $100 Amazon e-cards at the end of the study. To learn more and take part, visit or email [email protected] 

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