Does the number of brothers and/or sisters one has help or hinder individuals in their life goals? BYU student Tiana Hoffmann sought to answer that question through her 2017 Fulton Conference poster. In her sociology class, she learned that the amount of siblings one has directly affects educational results. This prompted her to ask the question: Does sibship size, or the number of children of a particular set of parents, also affect other outcomes? Tiana found that, at least in the early 80s, the more siblings an adolescent had, the more likely he or she was to try drugs or sex at a younger age. However, the age at which they began smoking and drinking rose if they had more siblings.
What does this mean for the everyday American? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the year 2015, 15.9% of those aged 12-17 said that they had used illicit drugs in their lifetime. If you include marijuana in that category- illegal in most states- then the number rises to 25.3%. SAMHSA further found that in the same year and age category, 17.3% and 28.4% had used tobacco products and alcohol respectively. These are serious issues and any research that can be used to better understand and predict adolescent behavior is of paramount importance.
Further Research and Implications
Of her results, Tiana said: “I was definitely very intrigued by the results. I was surprised that a higher number of siblings had opposite effects depending on the outcome.” As for where her research will go next, she added: “I would love to be able to test if birth order makes an impact on the decisions adolescents make. Perhaps, their behavior has less to do with the number of siblings they have in their family and more to do with where they fall in their family. Additionally, I would love to perform the same tests on a newer data set since the data I pulled from was collected in 1979-82. It is possible that we may find much different results when testing with data that is more current.”
What does she hope will happen as a result of her research? “I believe that as a social scientist, it is my responsibility to perform research that matters for people and could impact the way they choose to live their lives. But, I think that people should always be thinking critically about the research that is put out there and make sure that they are considering their own personal circumstances. My results were varied and found that higher sibship had both a positive and negative impact on adolescents depending on the outcome…. I want my research to encourage people to think critically and dig deeper into possible reasons why adolescents engage in risky behavior.”
Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, Tiana said: “I had a great time. The conference was very well organized and I felt very accomplished as I presented my research to people who seemed to be very interested in the results. I am obviously very grateful for my mentor, Dr. Mikaela Dufur, and the encouragement and guidance she gave me through the process.”