December 22, 2010
"Mom always liked you best." It was a popular line from the 1960s comedy duo the "Smothers Brothers".
The truth is, birth order and parental preferences do impact caregiving situations in families with multiple siblings. Research conducted by Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer (link opens in a new window) found that mothers ages 65 to 75 in the Boston area were perfectly willing to name favorites among their children.
Pillemer noted that parental favoritism is part of the family landscape, with mothers often expressing preferences and identifying one to whom they feel the most emotionally close and one with whom they have the most conflict.
So who did most mothers pick to care for them when they needed help? It often was the one the mother felt emotionally closest to and who she thinks is most similar, who shares her attitudes and values. And she is the one who has provided support and help for her mother in the past.
And that person, according to research conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care® network, was often the youngest. In fact, 64 percent of youngest siblings are primary caregivers compared with 57 percent of oldest siblings and 49 percent of middle siblings. Furthermore, 43 percent of youngest children say they have the closest relationship with their parents, while 70 percent of oldest children describe themselves as the responsible ones and 40 percent of middle children as the peacemakers of the family.
Sibling relationships expert Ingrid Connidis, Ph.D., of the University of Western Ontario, who worked with the Home Instead Senior Care network on the organization's 50-50 Rule® public education program for sibling caregivers, explained that the youngest caregiver preference may tie into geography.
"The family caregiver may be the one who lives the closest to the parent. And, in many cases, that may be the youngest. Because the youngest children know more of their parents' recent history, they may be the logical caregivers for that reason as well."
Please download the guide: 50/50 Rule SM Brochure (PDF 950K).
These articles and resources can help you share the care with your adult siblings.
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