Being mom’s favourite child has an unexpected disadvantage: they are more likely to be depressed.
Professor Jill Suitor, the study’s first author, explained:
“There is a cost for those who perceive they are the closest emotionally to their mothers, and these children report higher depressive symptoms, as do those who experience the greatest conflict with their mothers or who believe they are the children in whom their mothers are the most disappointed.”
The results come from a study of 725 adult children in 309 families.
They were surveyed across seven years when the mothers were between 65 and 75.
The results showed that the sibling who was felt closest to their mother also had the highest depressive symptoms.
Dr Megan Gilligan, who co-authored the study, said:
“This cost comes from higher sibling tension experienced by adult children who are favored for emotional closeness, or the greater feelings of responsibility for the emotional care of their older mothers.”
Less surprisingly, siblings who felt their mother was most disappointed in them were also more likely to be depressed.
This finding was particularly strong in black families, said Professor Suitor:
“What we found suggests that the black offspring were particularly distressed when they, as opposed to their siblings, were the children in whom mothers were most disappointed.”
The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences (Suitor et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Siblings image from Shutterstock