Linkages between parents' differential treatment, youth depressive symptoms, and sibling relationships

Lilly Shanahan, Susan Marie McHale, Ann C. Crouter, D. Wayne Osgood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


We tested social comparison predictions about cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between parents' differential treatment of siblings and both youth depressive symptoms and sibling relationship qualities from middle childhood to late adolescence, controlling for dyadic parent-child relationships and siblings' ratings of parents' fairness. Participants were parents and first- and second-borns (M = 11.8 and 9.2 years old at Year 1) from 201 White, middle/working-class families. Three-level models revealed both cross-sectional and longitudinal linkages between differential treatment and outcomes. For example, youth whose parent-child relationships decreased in warmth relative to those of their sibling reported increases in depressive symptoms and decreases in sibling warmth. Gender and age moderated differential treatment-depressive symptoms associations; birth order moderated differential treatment-sibling relationship associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-494
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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