Children's Understanding of Parental Differential Treatment

Amanda Kowal, Laurie Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined whether established associations between perceptions of parental differential treatment and sibling relationship quality are moderated by children's perceptions and attributions about parental behavior. Sixty-one children, aged 11-13 years, and their siblings were interviewed separately about parental differential treatment. Children did not perceive PDT in two-thirds of the instances they reported about, and 75% of the children who acknowledged that differential treatment was occurring in their homes did not find this to be "unfair." Children justified differential parental behaviors by identifying ways that they and their sibling differ from one another, that is, in terms of differences in their age, personal attributes, needs, relationship with parents, or strategic behaviors. Children who perceived their parents' differential behavior to be justified generally experienced more positive appraisals about their sibling relationship. Results reinforce the importance of examining how children construct their experiences in their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalChild development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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