Parents' Differential Treatment and Siblings' Academic Outcomes During Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

Open Access
Author:
Bissell-Havran, Joanna Marie
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 19, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Eric Loken, Dissertation Advisor
  • Eric Loken, Committee Chair
  • Susan Mc Hale, Committee Member
  • Hobart H Cleveland Iii, Committee Member
  • Rayne Audrey Sperling, Committee Member
  • Aleksandra B Slavkovic, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • emerging adulthood
  • siblings
  • adolescence
  • academic achievement
  • parenting
Abstract:
There is a wealth of literature suggesting that parents’ behaviors and attitudes have implications for adolescents’ academic outcomes. This literature has been informative, but has typically focused on the interactions of only one parent-child dyad in the family. The two studies that comprise this dissertation used data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (Add Health) to examine whether parents’ differential treatment of their offspring is associated with sibling’ academic outcomes. Parents’ differential treatment was measured by subtracting younger siblings’ from older siblings’ reports of parenting. Study 1 used 1008 sibling dyads to examine whether mothers’ and fathers’ differential treatment of their offspring on two parenting aspects (involvement in education and educational expectations) was associated with two outcomes for older siblings: their educational expectations during adolescence and their odds of starting college during emerging adulthood. This study also examined whether racial-ethnic group moderated these associations. Raw correlations in the overall sample showed positive associations between these sets of variables, but regression models suggested that parents’ differential treatment was not associated with older siblings’ achievement outcomes after controlling for their individual reports of parenting. Correlation analyses also suggested that the link between parents’ differential treatment and siblings’ achievement outcomes may be stronger for whites than for other racial-ethnic groups. Regression models including controls for older siblings’ individual reports of parenting suggested a tendency for blacks to be more likely than whites to show negative associations between differential treatment and older siblings’ achievement outcomes. Study 2 was motivated by national data showing that females are now more likely than males to attend college. This study used 565 mixed sex sibling dyads to examine whether maternal differential treatment during adolescence could be associated with the odds of just sisters vs. just brothers in the family starting college during emerging adulthood. After controlling for other demographic variables, the gender gap favoring sisters was larger in black families than in other racial-ethnic groups and was larger in two parent biological family structures than in other family structures. A multinomial logistic regression model that controlled for family background factors and differences between siblings’ academic achievement suggested that maternal differential treatment in educational expectations was associated with the odds of just sisters vs. just brothers in the family starting college. Overall, the findings suggested that differences in academic achievement may be more strongly linked than parents’ differential treatment to sisters’ and brothers’ differential odds of starting college, but suggest the possibility that parenting factors could play a small role.