Monday, January 3, 2011

Step Siblings and Academic Outcomes

Today’s children are growing up in any number of family structures including biological-, step-, and single-parent families. Even though there has been a lot of research on these diverse families, not much of it has focused on sibling relationships in non-traditional families.

However, research published recently in the Social Science Research journal analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to explore how living with step- and/or half-siblings impacted teenagers’ academic performance. A number of studies have shown that children in step families are at a greater disadvantage academically than even those children living with single parents.

Yet, step-parents are often only part of the new dynamic children must face when they become blended with a step family. So, what roles do siblings play in children’s academic lives?

This research found that youth who live with step- and/or half-siblings experience greater school-related behavior problems and lower GPA scores, and boys were more negatively affected than girls. The researchers suggest that siblings in these nontraditional families may expect less financial support for post-secondary education and may be less motivated to do well in school. Also, the ambiguity in their family relationships may motivate them to become independent earlier.

Living with step relationships can be difficult. Parents in non-traditional families may need to find ways to foster sibling involvement and emotional closeness to help create supportive family environments.

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