Maternal differential treatment and child socioemotional competencies: A multi-informant longitudinal study of Chinese families

Chun Bun Lam, Susan M. McHale, Chung Sze Lam, Kevin Kien Hoa Chung, Ryan Yat Ming Cheung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Research based on Western communities indicates that parents’ differential treatment may be linked to their children’s psychological and behavioral problems. Very little is known, however, about the potential implications of parental differential treatment for child socioemotional competencies or in non-Western communities. Focusing on families from Hong Kong, China, this multi-informant study tested the longitudinal associations of mothers’ differential warmth and conflict with their children’s socioemotional competencies and examined whether sibling dyad gender composition and age spacing moderated these associations. On two occasions about 12 months apart, data were collected from two children in each of 189 families and the mothers and class teachers of these children. At Time 1, older and younger children averaged 10.06 (SD = 1.07) and 7.82 (SD = 0.95) years of age, respectively, and 31% of older and 48% of younger children were boys. At Time 1, mothers provided demographic information and rated their warmth and conflict with each of their two children. At Times 1 and 2, teachers rated children on their emotion regulation, peer exclusion, and prosocial behaviors, and children rated their own empathy. Multilevel models revealed that, controlling for demographic factors, average mother-child relationships, and prior levels of competencies of children and their siblings, children who received less favorable treatment relative to their siblings exhibited decreases in socioemotional competencies over time. Sibling dyad gender composition and age spacing did not emerge as significant moderators, however.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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