Children considered the ‘favourite’ by their mothers are at a higher risk of suffering from depression compared to overlooked siblings, according to a new study.
Published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, the study is based on data collected from 725 adult children, with an average age of 49. The data was analysed looking specifically at levels of emotional closeness, conflict, pride and disappointment among the adult children.
Professor Jill Suitor, of Purdue University in Indiana, led the study.
She said: “There is a cost for those who perceive they are the closest emotionally to their mothers, and these children report higher depressive symptoms”.
Previous research from the University of California showed 65 per cent of mothers preferred one of their children over another, and 70 per cent of fathers do.
Megan Gilligan, who also worked on the research said: “This comes from higher sibling tension experienced by adult children who are favoured for emotional closeness or the greater feelings of responsibility for the emotional care of their older mothers.
“We find it particularly intriguing that siblings continue to engage in such a high degree of social comparison even well into their middle years.”
Other research conducted by Dr Gilligan showed mothers tended to favour their adult child who they perceive to be most similar to them, in terms of values and beliefs.
The research suggested depression does not just affect the supposed favoured child. Some siblings who felt they had dissappointed their parents, or were not as close to them, also identified as having symptoms of depression.
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