Favoritism Among Siblings Can Lead To Drug Use, Study Says

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While parents claim to not play favorites, sometimes siblings feel like their older brother or younger sister gets more attention. Whether that kid always gets praise for good grades or scoring the winning basket, an uneven amount of parental affection sometimes happens — and that kind of dynamic may do more than just hurt feelings. According to a new study, teens who felt less favored by their parents were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs.

Alex Jensen, a professor from Brigham Young University, analyzed 282 families with teenage siblings, according to Science Daily.

Here are some key takeaways from his research:

  • In "disengaged families," or ones that weren't very emotionally close together, there was a strong association between favoritism and alcohol, cigarette, or drug use among the children who felt less favored.
  • In these same families, the child who felt less favored was two times as likely to engage in these drug-related behaviors, sometimes as much as 3.5 times as likely, depending on the specific family dynamic.
  • Jensen says, "It wasn't just that they were more likely to use any substances, it also escalated. If they were already smoking then they were more likely to drink also. Or if they were smoking and drinking, they were more likely to also use drugs."
  • This all depends on the teens' perception of favoritism and whether they feel like they're getting less attention. Jensen explains, "It's not just how you treat them differently, but how your kids perceive it."

The good news is that Jensen found that this pattern didn't exist in families that showed strong interest in each other. Basically, it's important to show all your kids you care. Here's his main advice:

Show your love to your kids at a greater extent than you currently are. As simple as it sounds, more warmth and less conflict is probably the best answer.

He also pointed out it's important to identify things that make each kid unique, and support those differences. He hypothesizes that it helps when they're building their identities and figuring out the type of person that they are.

Does this study surprise you? Tell us what you think in the comments!
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