The younger sisters of childbearing adolescents: their attitudes, expectations, and behaviors

Child Dev. 1996 Apr;67(2):267-82.


To examine the precursors of the disproportionately high rates of early childbearing among the younger sisters of adolescent mothers, this study compared the attitudes, expectations, and behaviors of early adolescent girls (M age = 12.93) who had an adolescent childbearing sister (n = 75) to those of early adolescent girls who had only adolescent nonchildbearing sisters (n = 348). Results indicated that the younger sisters of childbearing adolescents were consistently different from the younger sisters of nonchildbearing adolescents on key characteristics known to be correlated with early sexual activity and adolescent childbearing: that is, they were more accepting of nonmarital adolescent childbearing, perceived younger ages for typical life-course transitions (best age to get married, have first child), had more pessimistic school and career expectations, and were more likely to have engaged in problem behaviors (smoke cigarettes, skip school). These younger sister characteristics were associated with a nonvirgin sexual status in the current sample and with high closeness and high rivalry with the childbearing sister but could not be accounted for by such within-family experiences as subjects' mothers' permissiveness or lack of mother-daughter communication. Findings suggest the mechanisms by which the younger sisters of childbearing teens themselves become vulnerable to early parenthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Logistic Models
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Permissiveness
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sibling Relations*
  • Social Problems
  • Surveys and Questionnaires