Research Paper Katherine Conger

Younger Sibling Motivation: Older Sibling Support during Stressful Times
Katherine Conger (Affiliate in Human and Community Development) with graduate researcher Christy Hollifield (Human Development)

Using longitudinal data from 425 sibling dyads and their parents, this project investigates older sibling effects on the development of younger sibling motivation during the transition from middle to high school. Often overlooked, siblings can serve as models for academic and social competence, and can provide support for younger siblings when parents are too stressed by financial issues to encourage offspring’s educational aspirations and opportunities. This is an important transition as high school requires more independent and self-motivated work to obtain academic success. Sibling relationship effects are examined within the family context.

Conger and Hollifield will focus on constructive problem-solving support of the older sibling and the development of intrinsic motivation of the younger sibling (i.e., the internal drive) toward school-related activities in the context of economic pressure and SES. They hypothesize high economic pressure will increase the association between sibling relationships and younger sibling motivational development.

Focused on the non-cash safety net (education policies), findings will inform designing programs to promote family together time and encourage constructive problem solving around every day activities. Providing resources for families to increase quality time spent together could increase the relationship cohesion between family members, and within the greater family unit, as well as strengthen problem-solving skills for each family member. This type of support could promote greater intrinsic motivation of younger siblings to pursue learning and activities of interest to them, especially in families experiencing financial strain. This has implications for educational and occupational opportunities post high school.