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Attention from Parent Linked to Later Depressive Symptoms

Attention from Parent Linked to Depressive Symptoms in AdulthoodNew research suggests siblings who received more attention from mom during youth are at higher risk of depressive symptoms during middle age.

Interestingly, the heightened attention could be associated with a child being a shining star or a black sheep.

The study by Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer surveyed 275 Boston-area families and is the first to show that such harmful effects persist long into adulthood.

Prior research has shown that parental favoritism negatively affects mental health and often triggers behavioral problems in children, teens and young adults.

“Perceived favoritism from one’s mother still matters to a child’s psychological well-being, even if they have been living for years outside the parental home and have started families of their own,” says Pillemer, a professor in the department of human development and associate dean in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are the chosen child or not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings.”

The study, which controlled for family size, race and other factors, drew on interviews with 275 mothers in their 60s and 70s with at least two living adult children. Researchers also surveyed 671 offspring of the women.

The findings could lead to new therapies for practitioners who work with later-life families, Pillemer says.

“We have a powerful norm in our society that parents should treat kids equally, so favoritism can be something of a taboo topic,” he says.

“If counselors can help older parents and adult children bring some of these issues into the open, it may help prevent family conflict from arising.”

Source: Cornell University

Attention from Parent Linked to Later Depressive Symptoms

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Attention from Parent Linked to Later Depressive Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 15, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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