Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 105–120

Did Mom Really Love You Best? Developmental Histories, Status Transitions, and Parental Favoritism in Later Life Families

  • J. Jill Suitor
  • Karl Pillemer

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005663215063

Cite this article as:
Suitor, J.J. & Pillemer, K. Motivation and Emotion (2000) 24: 105. doi:10.1023/A:1005663215063


In this paper, we draw upon insights from the developmental psychological literature on younger families to investigate within-family differences in parent–adult child relations in later life families. Using data from 30 families, we examine whether mothers aged 65–75 report greater closeness to particular adult children, and the extent to which patterns of closeness can be explained by within-family differences in the children's status transitions and developmental histories. Eighty percent of the mothers reported being closer to at least one of their adult children. Further, mothers were more likely to report that the children to whom they were closest had experienced nonnormative status transitions or other problematic events that had been involuntary and had made the children more dependent on their mothers. In contrast, mothers were least likely to name children who experienced voluntary problematic events. Comparison of the data from mothers with that from adult children revealed substantial discrepancies in reporting developmental histories, thus demonstrating the limitations imposed by collecting data from only one generation. Taken together, these findings suggest that examining within-family variations in social structural transitions and developmental histories, in combination with collecting data from multiple generations, may shed light on the quality of intergenerational relations.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Jill Suitor
    • 1
  • Karl Pillemer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton Rouge
  2. 2.Cornell UniversityIthaca

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