“I’m Sure She Chose Me!” Accuracy of Children’s Reports of Mothers’ Favoritism in Later Life Families*

Authors


  • *

    This project was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (RO1 AG18869-01), J. J. S. and K. P., Coprincipal Investigators. K. P. also acknowledges support from an Edward R. Royal Center grant from the National Institute on Aging (1 P30 AG022845). We wish to thank Jane T. Pillemer, Rebecca Powers, and Scott L. Feld for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the article. We want to thank Michael Bisciglia, Rachel Brown, Ilana S. Feld, Alison Green, Kimberly Gusman, Jennifer Jones, Dorothy Mecum, Michael Patterson, and Monica Shackelford for their assistance in preparing the data for analysis and participating in the analysis of the qualitative data. We would also like to thank Paul Allison for his helpful suggestions regarding the data analysis. Finally, we thank Mary Ellen Colten and her colleagues at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, for collecting the data for the project.

**J. Jill Suitor is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, and Anthropology and Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University, Stone Hall, 700 W State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (jsuitor@purdue.edu).

Jori Sechrist is a Doctoral Student in the Department of Sociology, and Anthropology and Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University, 700 W State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (sechristj@purdue.edu).

Michael Steinhour is a Doctoral Student in the Department of Sociology, and Anthropology and Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University, 700 W State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (msteinho@purdue.edu).

Karl Pillemer is a Professor in Human Development, MVR Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850 (kap6@cornell.edu).

Abstract

Abstract: We used data from 769 mother-child dyads nested within 300 later life families to explore the accuracy of adult children’s perceptions of mothers’ patterns of favoritism in terms of closeness and confiding. Adult children were generally accurate regarding whether their mothers preferred a specific child, but often had difficulty identifying whom mothers favored. Multivariate analyses indicated that overall accuracy of children’s reports was positively related to similarity of religious participation and negatively related to parental status of the adult child and family size. Because parental favoritism may affect adult children psychologically and have implications for later life care for parents, family practitioners should be aware of mothers’ patterns of favoritism and the sometimes inaccurate perceptions adult children have concerning this favoritism.

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