Parents' Differential Treatment of Adolescent Siblings in African American Families

Anna R. Solmeyer, Susan M. McHale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Research on European and European American families suggests that parents' differential treatment of siblings has negative implications for youths' adjustment, but few studies have explored these dynamics in minority samples. This study examined parents' differential acceptance and conflict in a sample of mothers, fathers, and two adolescent siblings in 179 African American families who were interviewed on three annual occasions. In an effort to replicate findings from European and European American samples, we assessed the longitudinal associations between differential treatment and adolescent adjustment and tested three sibling characteristics (birth order, gender, and dyad gender composition) as potential moderators of these linkages. To illuminate the sociocultural context of differential treatment and its implications, we also explored parents' cultural socialization practices and experiences of financial stress as potential moderators of these links. Multilevel models revealed that, controlling for average parent–child relationship qualities, decreases in parental acceptance and increases in parent–youth conflict over time—relative to the sibling—were associated with increases in youths' risky behavior and depressive symptoms. Links between differential treatment and adjustment were not evident, however, when mothers engaged in high levels of cultural socialization and in families under high financial stress. The discussion highlights the significance of sociocultural factors in family dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-188
Number of pages18
JournalFamily Process
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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