The Role of Perceived Maternal Favoritism in Sibling Relations in Midlife

Department of Sociology, Purdue University, 700 W State St, West Lafayette IN, 47907, , 765-496-1718.
Journal of Marriage and Family (Impact Factor: 3.01). 11/2009; 71(4):1026-1038. DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00650.x
Source: PubMed


Data were collected from 708 adult children nested within 274 later-life families from the Within-Family Differences Study to explore the role of perceived maternal favoritism in the quality of sibling relations in midlife. Mixed-model analyses revealed that regardless of which sibling was favored, perceptions of current favoritism and recollections of favoritism in childhood reduced closeness among siblings. Recollections of maternal favoritism in childhood were more important than perceptions of current favoritism in predicting tension among adult siblings, regardless of age. Taken together, the findings from this investigation are consistent with childhood studies showing that siblings have better relationships when they believe that they are treated equitably by their parents.

Download full-text


Available from: Seth T. Pardo, Apr 14, 2014
  • Source
    • "WFDS analyses showed that parental differentiation has a major impact on adult children. When children perceived their mothers as differentiating among offspring or recall mothers " playing favorites " in childhood, they reported more problematic relationships with their siblings and higher depressive symptoms (Pillemer, Suitor, Pardo, & Henderson, 2010; Suitor et al., 2009). The question remains as to whether differentiation matters for parents as well. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As Baby Boomers enter late life, relationships with family members gain importance. This review article highlights two aspects of their intergenerational relationships: (a) caregiving for aging parents and (b) interactions with adult children in the context of changing marital dynamics. The researchers describe three studies: (a) the Within Family Differences Study (WFDS) of mothers aged 65-75 and their multiple grown children (primarily Baby Boomers) ongoing since 2001; (b) the Family Exchanges Study (FES) of Baby Boomers aged 42-60, their spouses, parents, and multiple grown children ongoing since 2008; and (c) the Longitudinal Study of Generations (LSoG) of 351 three-generation families started when the Baby Boomers were teenagers in 1971, with interviews every 3-5 years from 1985 to 2005. These studies show that the Baby Boomers in midlife navigate complex intergenerational patterns. The WFDS finds aging parents differentiate among Baby Boomer children in midlife, favoring some more than others. The FES shows that the Baby Boomers are typically more involved with their children than with their aging parents; Boomers' personal values, family members' needs, and personal rewards shape decisions about support. The LSoG documents how divorce and remarriage dampen intergenerational obligations in some families. Moreover, loosening cultural norms have weakened family bonds in general. Reviews of these studies provide insights into how the Baby Boomers may negotiate caregiving for aging parents as well as the likelihood of family care they will receive when their own health declines in the future.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · The Gerontologist
  • Source
    • "Mixed feelings toward siblings may stem from perceptions of parental favoritism—current or past. Retrospective accounts of maternal favoritism in childhood better predicted sibling tension in middle age than did current accounts of maternal favoritism (Suitor et al., 2009). Thus, siblings were more likely to have good relationships with one another in later life if they felt their mother treated them equitably in childhood. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this review, we summarize and critically evaluate the major empirical, conceptual, and theoretical directions that studies of aging families have taken during the first decade of the 21st century. The field has benefited from an expanded perspective based on four overarching themes: (a) complexity in emotional relations, (b) diversity in family structures and households, (c) interdependence of family roles and functions, and (d) patterns and outcomes of caregiving. Although research on aging families has advanced theory and applied innovative statistical techniques, the literature has fallen short in fully representing diverse populations and in applying the broadest set of methodological tools available. We discuss these and other frontier areas of scholarship in light of the aging of baby boomers and their families.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Journal of Marriage and Family
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Parents' differentiation has been linked to negative psychological and behavioral outcomes in children, adolescents, and young adults. This line of research, however, has not been extended to families in later life. In this article, we use data from 671 mother-child dyads in 275 families in the greater Boston area to explore whether mothers' differentiation among their children is related to psychological well-being among offspring. We examined actual and perceived maternal differentiation in the domains of closeness, expectations for care, and conflict. We hypothesized that depressive symptoms would be higher when mothers differentiated among their children and when adult children perceived differentiation. Although the specific patterns varied somewhat by mothers' and children's reports, the findings indicated that across all three domains, maternal differentiation was related to higher depression scores.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2010 · Journal of Marriage and Family
Show more