You're Just Like Your Dad: Intergenerational Patterns of Differential Treatment of Siblings

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Journals of Gerontology. Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences






Oxford University Press

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Objectives Past work highlights that parents' differential treatment has implications for offspring's mental and relational health across the life course. Although the current body of literature has examined offspring- and parent-level correlates of differential treatment, research has yet to consider whether and how patterns of differential treatment are transmitted across generations. Method As part of a two-wave longitudinal study of 157 families, both grandparents (M age = 76.50 years, SD = 6.20) and parents (M age = 51.10 years, SD = 4.41) reported on differential treatment of their own offspring at both phases. Results A series of residualized change models revealed support for both continuity and compensation hypotheses. Middle-aged parents tended to model the patterns of differential treatment exhibited by their fathers, but middle-aged men who experienced more differential treatment from their own parents in recent years tended to subsequently exhibit lower levels of differential treatment to their offspring. Discussion These findings suggest that patterns of differential treatment both continue and diverge across generations, and those patterns vary by gender. On a broader level, these results also suggest that siblings not only impact one another's development, but in adulthood, they may indirectly influence their nieces' and nephews' development by virtue of their influence on their siblings' parenting.

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