May 2, 2019

For Mother’s Day, ditch the idea that mom has a favorite child

Jill Suitor Jill Suitor. (Purdue University photo)
Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Most mothers go to great lengths to avoid playing favorites. Yet most adult children often believe one sibling is favored over others, causing rifts within families.

“However, more than half the time, adult children are wrong, particularly regarding which children in the family are favored or disfavored,” said Purdue University sociologist Jill Suitor, a distinguished professor in the College of Liberal Arts who studies bonds between parents and their adult children. “Yet these perceptions of favoritism within the family create a lot of difficulty among siblings, and one of the things that mothers really like to avoid is conflict among their adult children.”

Rather than brunches or spa trips, then, offering peace of mind by avoiding conflicts might be the best gift a child can give on Mother’s Day, said Suitor, principal investigator of the long-term “Within-Family Differences Study,” which examines the mental health effects of relationships between hundreds of parents and adult children.

“Mothers often mediate between their adult children and are the glue that holds families together. Highly conflictual relationships among siblings or between adult children and their parents, fueled by perceptions of favoritism, have detrimental effects on the mental health on members of both generations,” said Suitor, a faculty associate at the Center on Aging and the Life Course.

“The problem for moms is that even if they try their hardest to be very even-handed with their children and they feel the same about all of them, that does not prevent their adult children from thinking, in fact, that the mothers favor and disfavor some over others.”

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541,

Source: Jill Suitor, 765-414-2462,

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-19 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at