Intelligence, Income, and Education as Potential Influences on a Child’s Home Environment: A (Maternal) Sibling-Comparison Design

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The quality of the home environment, as a predictor, is related to health, education, and emotion outcomes. However, factors influencing the quality of the home environment, as an outcome, have been understudied—particularly how children construct their own environments. Further, most previous research on family processes and outcomes has implemented between-family designs, which limit claims of causality. The present study uses kinship data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to construct a maternal sibling-comparison design to investigate how maternal and child traits predict the quality of home environment. Using a standard between-family analysis, we first replicate previous research showing a relationship between maternal intelligence and the quality of the home environment. Then, we reevaluate the link between maternal intelligence and the home environment using differences between maternal sisters on several characteristics to explain differences between home environments for their children. Following, we evaluate whether child intelligence differences are related to home environment differences in the presence of maternal characteristics. Results are compared with those from the between-family analysis. Past causal interpretations are challenged by our findings, and the role of child intelligence in the construction of the home environment emerges as a critical contributor that increases in importance with development.

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