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Monday, 12 July 2010 01:08

"Mom always liked you best" can lead to depression

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According to a U.S. study, if a child is not given as much attention as another child, symptoms of depression may appear later in life for the one not perceived as mother's favorite. The other children can be adversely affected, too.


U.S. researchers Kari Pillemer, Seth Pardo, and Charles Henderson from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), and U.S. sociologist Jill Suitor, from Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana), undertook the study of perceived favoritism from one's mother onto her children and its effect in the middle part of these children's lives.

According to the July 10, 2010 Science Daily article 'Moms' Favoritism Tied to Depression in Adulthood,' Dr. Kari Pillemer stated, "Perceived favoritism from one's mother still matters to a child's psychological well-being, even if they have been living for years outside the parental home and have started families of their own."

Their paper appears in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The title of the paper, which appears in the April 2010 issue of the journal, is entitled 'Mothers' Differentiation and Depressive Symptoms Among Adult Children.'

Its abstract states, '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.'

The researchers used 671 mother and child relationships within 275 families, with at least two living children who were now adults.

The associations were all from the Boston, Massachusetts metropolitan area in the United States. The mothers were in their 60s or 70s at the time of the study.

 

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The study found that 70% of mothers named one child that they felt the closest to with respect to the other child or children.

Only 15% of the children surveyed in the study saw their mother giving all of the children equal treatment.

In addition, 92% of children specified one child in which the mother had the most arguments. And, 73% of the mothers specified one child in which they had the most argument, when compared with the other child, or children.

The researchers ''¦ examined actual and perceived maternal differentiation [favoritism] in the domains of closeness, expectations for care, and conflict. We hypothesized that depressive symptoms would be higher when mothers differentiated [had favorites] among their children and when adult children perceived differentiation [favoritism].' [Abstract]

They concluded, 'Although the specific patterns varied somewhat by mothers' and children's reports, the findings indicated that, across all 3 domains, maternal differentiation was related to higher depression scores.' [Abstract]

Dr. Pillemer added, 'It doesn't matter whether you are the chosen child or not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings. The less favored kids may have ill will toward their mother or preferred sibling, and being the favored child brings resentment from one's siblings and the added weight of greater parental expectations." [Science Daily]

 

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The Science Daily article concluded with: 'The findings could lead to new therapies for practitioners who work with later-life families."

Dr. Pillemer concluded with the statement. "We have a powerful norm in our society that parents should treat kids equally, so favoritism can be something of a taboo topic."

"If counselors can help older parents and adult children bring some of these issues into the open, it may help prevent family conflict from arising."

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