What Makes Siblings Different? The Development of Sibling Differences in Academic Achievement and Interests


academic achievement, adolescence, nonshared family environment, parental beliefs, sibling influences, sibling differences


To illuminate processes that contribute to the development of sibling differences, this study examined cross lagged links between parents’ beliefs about sibling differences in academic ability and differences between siblings’ grade point averages (GPAs), and cross lagged links between differences in siblings’ GPAs and sibling differences in academic interests. Data were collected from mothers, fathers, firstborn (M age at Time 1 = 15.71, SD = 1.07) and secondborn (M age at Time 1 = 13.18, SD = 1.29) youth from 388 European American Families on three annual occasions. Findings revealed that, after controlling for siblings’ average grades and prior differences in performance, parents’ beliefs about sibling differences in academic ability predicted differences in performance such that youth rated by parents as relatively more competent than their sibling earned relatively higher grades the following year. Siblings’ relative school performance, however, did not predict parents’ beliefs about differences between siblings’ competencies. Further, after controlling for average interests and grades, sibling differences in GPA predicted differences in siblings’ interests such that youth who had better grades than their siblings reported relatively stronger academic interests the following year. Differences in interest, however, did not predict sibling differences in GPA. Findings are discussed in terms the role of sibling dynamics in family socialization.

Original Publication Citation

Jensen, A. C., & McHale, S. M. (2015). What makes siblings different? The development of sibling differences in academic achievement and interests. Journal of Family Psychology, 29, 469-478. doi:10.1037/fam0000090

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Family Psychology




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor