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Parental Differential Treatment: Child and family characteristics associated with child outcome

Research on Parental Differential Treatment</> (PDT) focuses on siblings differential experiences within the family and the associations with siblings socio-emotional characteristics. Some of these parenting differences are related to disparity in childrens developmental or temperamental characteristics, but within-family parenting differences can also lead to child perceptions of parental favoritism</></>. Research does notclearly distinguish parenting differences from favoritism, although this is essential in understanding the link between PDT and child outcomes.</>
                </>The aim of my PhD was to distinguish common within-family differences in parenting from perceptions of parental favoritism and to asses which aspects of PDT are linked to lower parent-child and sibling relationship quality. My focus was on child perceptions in middle and late childhood. </>Social comparison processes and family interactions play an important role in this developmental period, makingPDT more salient to children. </>After a comprehensive conceptual review, four empirical studies were conducted. First, a qualitative study (Study 1) targeted domains and fairness of PDT in non-singleton children. This resulted in the development of a questionnaire targeting childrens comparisons of parenting practices towards them and their sibling and their accompanying fairness-evaluations. Next, three quantitative studies targeted the correlates of the several domains of parenting differences (positive parenting and support, strictness and control, responsibility)and favoritism. Questionnaire data were gathered in 467 families raising (minimum) two pre-adolescent siblings. A specific asset of this samplewas its variation in mixed- and same-gender sibling pairs, and the inclusion of fathers. This was motivated by the finding that some forms of PDT are related to gender-constellation, e.g. parents tend to spend more time with the sibling of their own gender in mixed-gender sibling pairs.</>
Study 2 targeted parent ratings of parenting differences and favoritism and the associations with parent-child and sibling relationship quality. Study 3 assessed (a) direct and (b) indirect perceptions of (c)within-family parenting differences and (d) favoritism in children, andrelated this to sibling differences in emotional and conduct problems. Study 4 addressed the predictors of childrens fairness-perceptions, an important predictor of perceptions of favoritism. We conducted hierarchical multiple regression analyses, separately for earlier-borns and later-borns and regarding mothers and fathers, and mixed-model analyses, withsibling and parent as repeated factors.  </></>
                </>Several important findings arose from these data. Favoritism was a less frequent phenomenon than within-family differences in parenting, regardless of measurement method. Feeling favored was related to perceiving more support and less strictness relative to the sibling, and toreceiving less indirect negative behavioral and psychological control. Parenting differences were associated with child problem behavior, whereas favoritism was more closely related to parent-child relationship quality. The sibling with most conduct problems received more control and strictness. The relations between favoritism and child outcomes showed non-linear properties. Equal treatment and being slightly favored were related to better parent-child relationship quality; higher levels of favoritism went together with a decline in relationship quality. Fairness was predicted by child characteristics, parenting, and congruence between mothers and fathers treatment. These findings provide guidelines for family practice to diminish childrens perceptions of parental favoritism.</>
Date:1 Dec 2008 →  23 Oct 2013
Keywords:Siblings, Child psychosocial adaptation, Parenting, Child personality, Differential parenting
Disciplines:Developmental psychology and ageing, Orthopedagogics and special education
Project type:PhD project