Whether parents admit or deny it, the truth is that, they can act differently with their various kids, as there are parents who, intentionally or unintentionally, can treat a child more positively, while treat his sibling more negatively.
The new study suggests that this kind of treatment can be detrimental not only for the child who is treated more negatively, but also for the other children in the family too. The same study also reported that when parents have experienced or lived through more risky situations, the more negatively they tended to act towards that child.
The study, which was recently published in the Child Development journal, was conducted on 400 families in Canada, with children ages 2 to 5. The study decided to pay most attention on how the negative treatment not only affected the child receiving it, but how it made a difference to the entire family dynamic.
To get the results, the study employed various statistical techniques to identify the different dynamics playing out between the whole family, as well as between the siblings. The researchers also gathered information based on reports from the mothers who were participating in the study, as well as their own observations from visiting the homes.
Besides the children, equal attention was paid to the parents. The researchers created a risk index to tabulate how many stressful situations the mother had experienced in the past, as well as in the present. Examples of risk factors included low or lacking income, single parenting, and even home safety.
The study found that mothers who experienced most of the risk factors tended to treat their children differently, and were prone to being more positive or negative to particular children. These mums also illustrated more range in their levels of affection and warmth, and on the other end of the spectrum, their harshness and irritability with their kids.
Despite not being aware of this kind of behaviour, researchers still warn against it as it can have negative effects in children, such as increased mental health issues, played out through attention-seeking, aggression and emotional turmoil.