This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examining Family Structure and Half-Sibling Influence on Adolescent Well-Being




Harcourt, Kate Taylor

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Using data from a statewide education project for adolescent youth (N=2,555), this study explored family structure variations of youth in two-parent families and their influence on coping, sexual activity delay, and alcohol and drug use. While the majority of prior research in this area has defined family structure by the parent-child relationship, this study emphasized variations in family structure based on types of sibling relationships. The differences among adolescents were explored based on (1) "traditional" categories of two-parent families, (2) the presence of a half-sibling and (3) the combination of family structure and the presence of a half-sibling in the family. Results indicate differences in outcomes when examining “traditional” classifications, as well as classifications based on the presence of a half-sibling, such that those in nuclear families and those without half-siblings are advantaged over other groups. Using groups based on a combination of family structure and half-sibling presence, differences were found between youth in nuclear families and youth in step-nuclear hybrid families (both biological and stepchildren) on sexual activity delay and alcohol and drug use. Biological and stepchildren in step-nuclear hybrid families did not significantly differ on any measure. Furthermore, a significant race by family structure interaction effect was seen for measures of coping. On average, differences were seen for European Americans but not for African Americans. Finally, age difference between siblings and gender of participant were the most potent predictors of sexual activity delay for mutual children; a greater age difference and being a female were more closely related to greater sexual activity delay.