Stress Due to Sibling Structure

The sibling structure stress hypothesis is that having stepsiblings and half-siblings creates greater stepfamily complexity, which results in all family members experiencing more stress (Halpern-Meekin & Tach, 2008). This greater stress, in turn, causes poorer outcomes for children in complex sibling configurations compared to children in nuclear families or children in stepfamilies in which all children are full siblings. Stressed parents are less effective as parents (see Chap. 7), stressed family members have more conflicts, and stressed children develop less well than other children. In addition to worse outcomes for children with half- and stepsiblings, the sibling structure stress hypothesis also proposes more emotionally distant, conflic- tual relationships among them.

Selection Effects

Family complexity-having half-siblings and stepsiblings—is an indicator of past family and relational instability, which may be a result of the selection of parents who are less effective at building and maintaining positive relationships (Brown et al., 2015; Harcourt et al., 2015). If selection factors are operating, there may be something about individuals who have reproduced with multiple partners that results in behavioral, emotional, academic, and interpersonal problems for children with half- and stepsiblings.

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