Shared understanding of parental differential treatment in families

Amanda K. Kowal, Jennifer L. Krull, Laurie F Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the extent to which children and parents have concordant views about parental differential treatment (PDT) and whether such concordance is linked with variations in sibling relationship quality. Seventy-four 11- to 13-year-old children, their older siblings, and their parents were interviewed about their experiences with PDT and the quality of the children's sibling relationships. Levels of agreement about the magnitude, direction, and fairness of PDT were generally low to moderate. However, sibling agreement about the magnitude of parental differential affection and the fairness of maternal control and affection were associated with more positive sibling relationships. Whereas family members were more likely to agree that parental behaviors were fair when they were concordant about the extent to which differential affection occurred, agreement about controlling behaviors was associated with lower levels of agreement about fairness. In addition, the frequency of family discussions about parental behaviors was not linked to shared perceptions of fairness. Results emphasize that capturing the multiple perspectives of family members is crucial for obtaining a comprehensive portrayal of family relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-295
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2006


  • Parent-child relationships
  • Parental differential treatment
  • Shared understanding
  • Siblings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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