Family Structure Characteristics and Academic Success: Supporting the Work of School Counselors
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 8 No. 4 (2007): Vol-8-Issue-4-April-2007
The family is a child’s primary context for socialization and greatly affects a child’s well-being.
Historical contexts show that families have been evolving for centuries due to social and economic
factors, thus resulting in various family structures. A stable, traditional family structure is most
conducive to academic success (Tillman, 2007). Much research has found that children raised in a
non-traditional home are at a disadvantage (Astone & McLanahan, 1991; Halpern-Meekin & Tach,
2008). The research on the consequences of single-parent families suggests children of single parent
families are more likely to be impoverished, to break the law, to abuse drugs, to do poorly in school, to
become pregnant before the age of twenty, and to have emotional and behavioral problems. In
addition, these negative effects are not short-term, but carry into adulthood and manifest themselves in
problems in relationships and occupation. However, single-parent families resulting from widowhood
show less harmful effects than divorced or non-union birth households. Although the presence of
another adult may bring increased financial and time resources, research indicates children in stepfamilies
may be at an even greater disadvantage than children residing in stable single-parent homes.
Lastly, cohabitating families often create less defined family roles, lower levels of parental support,
supervision, and involvement, and greater family conflict (Tillman, 2007).