Maternal Differential Treatment in Later Life Families and Within-Family Variations in Adult Sibling Closeness

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Abstract

Objectives.

In this article, we explore within-family differences in the closeness of sibling ties in adulthood. Specifically, we consider the sibship as a network and investigate the ways in which perceptions of mothers' differential treatment play a role in within-family variations in sibling closeness in midlife.

Method.

Data were analyzed from 2,067 adult sibling dyads nested within 216 later life families, collected as part of the Within-Family Differences Study-II.

Results.

Respondents reported the greatest closeness to siblings whom they perceived as favored by their mothers when they were not favored themselves, whereas respondents were less likely to choose siblings whom they perceived as disfavored by their mothers when they did not perceive themselves as disfavored.

Discussion.

Variability in the strength of sibling ties within families suggests that some individuals receive greater benefits from this relationship than do their brothers and sisters. These findings shed new light on such within-family variations in sibling closeness by identifying how specific patterns of maternal differential treatment draw offspring toward some siblings and away from others.

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