Resident and Non-Resident Family Dynamics and the Academic Outcomes of Adolescent Stepchildren
Kathryn H. Tillman, Florida State University
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), this paper explores the roles of both resident family relationships and non-resident parent-child relationships in determining the academic expectations, achievement and school-related behavior of children in stepfamilies. Results indicate that family relationships are significant predictors of these academic outcomes, and can explain some of the academic disadvantages faced by youth in non-traditional stepfamilies (e.g. stepmother families, cohabiting stepfamilies). While positive relationships with both resident and non-resident parent-figures independently promote good academic outcomes, the effects of resident family relationships are conditioned by the existence and quality of relationships with non-resident parents. When resident family dynamics are poor, involvement with non-resident parents helps to bolster academic outcomes. However, when resident family dynamics are good, the existence of a non-resident parent may make a child's life more stressful and complicated. Conflict with non-resident parents can also weaken the beneficial effects of good resident family relationships.