Mothers' Differentiation and Depressive Symptoms Among Adult Children

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Abstract:

Parents' differentiation has been linked to negative psychological and behavioral outcomes in children, adolescents, and young adults. This line of research, however, has not been extended to families in later life. In this article, we use data from 671 mother-child dyads in 275 families in the greater Boston area to explore whether mothers' differentiation among their children is related to psychological well-being among offspring. We examined actual and perceived maternal differentiation in the domains of closeness, expectations for care, and conflict. We hypothesized that depressive symptoms would be higher when mothers differentiated among their children and when adult children perceived differentiation. Although the specific patterns varied somewhat by mothers' and children's reports, the findings indicated that, across all 3 domains, maternal differentiation was related to higher depression scores.
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