“Mom always liked you best.” It was a popular line from the 1960s comedy duo the “Smothers Brothers.” So is there any truth to the statement? And, if so, does it determine who Mom or Dad wants to help care for them in their senior years?
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 found that mothers ages 65 to 75 in the Boston area were perfectly willing to name favorites among their children.
Most mothers have very distinct preferences, Dr. Pillemer said, including one to whom they feel most emotionally close and one with whom they have the most conflict. Parental favoritism is a fundamental part of the family landscape throughout life.
So who did most mothers pick to care for them when they needed help? She is the one the mother feels closest to and thinks is most similar, Pillmer said. And she is the one who has helped her mom the most 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.
If you are facing caregiving challenges in your family, Home Instead Senior Care’s 50-50 RuleSM program can help. The program for siblings includes a guide of family situations which offers practical advice on ways to address those situations and additional resources SolvingFamilyConflict.com.
Please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office for more information or to schedule a no-cost in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help you and your parents.