Favored Children May Have Increased Risk of Depression

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Adult children who are emotionally closer to their mothers may have an increased risk of depression, according to research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

To better understand the relationships between parents and their adult children, Jill Suitor, PhD, professor of sociology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and colleagues studied 725 adult children from 309 families as part of the Within-Family Differences Study. Mothers were aged 65-75 at the study’s beginning in 2001, and data on children’s perceptions of favoritism were collected every seven years.

The researchers believe that among those who rated themselves as favored by their mother for emotional closeness, sibling rivalry may be to blame for higher rates of depression. Another reason may be because of increased feelings of responsibility for the emotional care of older mothers. They also found that children who believed they were the sibling their mother was most disappointed in also had higher reports of depressive symptoms.

They also analyzed their findings by race, finding that “black offspring were particularly distressed when they, as opposed to their siblings, were the children in whom mothers were most disappointed,” said Dr. Suitor.  

The researchers’ findings suggest that social comparison accounts for psychological well-being regarding favoritism.

They next want to study favoritism between children and fathers, and whether they can predict favoritism between mothers and adult children.

Favored Children May Have Increased Risk of Depression
Researchers believe that sibling rivalry and social comparison may be to blame for higher depression risk in favored children.

If you have siblings, you are likely to have had the ongoing debate about who is mom's favorite. But according to a new study, winning that title is not necessarily a good thing; it may increase the risk for depression.

Study coauthor Jill Suitor, PhD, a professor of sociology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and colleagues publish their findings in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

The study involved 725 adult children from 309 families who were a part of the Within-Family Differences Study — a longitudinal project that aims to gain a better understanding of the relationship between parents and their adult children

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