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Maternal differential treatment of siblings and children's behavioral problems: A longitudinal study

  • Shirley McGuire (a1), Judy Dunn (a2) and Robert Plomin (a2)


Researchers have examined links between maternal differential treatment of siblings and children's adjustment; however, little is known about the longitudinal nature of these associations. The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between maternal differential treatment of the siblings, direct parenting of older siblings, and older siblings' behavior problems across middle childhood. Eighty-two families were interviewed twice in their homes when the siblings averaged 4.7 and 7.7 years of age and, again when they averaged 7.9 and 10.5 years of age. Mothers completed questionnaires about parenting and older siblings' adjustment during the summer after the older siblings' 7th and 11th birthdays. Teachers completed questionnaires about the older siblings' adjustment and returned them through the mail. There was significant stability in the mothers' reports of differential treatment and significant associations between mothers' reports of maternal differential discipline and differential attention and mothers' and teachers' reports of older siblings' externalizing problems across time. Direct parenting measures were not correlated with differential treatment or older siblings' behavior problems across time.


Corresponding author

S. McGuire, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, CA 92093–0109.


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