Childhood sibling dynamics, such as bickering and bonding, may predict differences in college education, says a study by Penn State. According to the study, these relationships may predict similarities and differences in siblings’ education later in life.
In a study spanning about 15 years, the researchers found that when siblings felt more warmth toward each other in childhood, they were more likely to achieve similar levels of education. But, when siblings felt that their parents’ treatment of themselves versus their sibling was unfair, or when their fathers spent more time with one sibling than the other, those siblings achieved different levels of education.
Researcher Xiaoran Sun said that the results held up even when the researchers controlled for the siblings’ grade-point averages across childhood and adolescence, suggesting that school achievement may not be the only factor determining what level of education a person achieves. “While school is obviously important, this study helps show that what goes on inside families can have an impact, as well,” said researcher Susan McHale.
What happens in the family can impact your education as well. (Shutterstock)
“Warmth from siblings may not mean you’re more likely to go to college, but it seems to be a factor in how similarly the two siblings turn out. People don’t tend to think about siblings being important to academic achievement, but our findings highlight the importance of family experiences — beyond what happens at school.”
“A lot of research on child development focuses on one child in the family, with the assumption that if you know what happens to this one child, you know how families operate to socialise children,” McHale said. “But in the US and elsewhere around the world, more children grow up in a home with a sibling than with a father figure. So by studying siblings, you start to get a better sense of the larger family context of development.”
“The sibling relationship factors that we tested did not predict whether an individual sibling would graduate from college or not, but we did find predictors of whether siblings would achieve different levels of education,” said Sun. “The findings provide clues about how sibling relationships can affect education pathways.”
The researchers said that there were a few possible explanations for the findings. Sun said that when siblings felt more warmth for each other, they had a close relationship in general, and thus, might be more likely to follow similar paths in their educational achievement. The study appears in the journal Child Development.
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