In a new study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, discovered that certain teens are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol if they think that their parents favor their siblings over them.
To conduct their study, researchers examined 282 families, each with two teenagers. Alex Jensen, lead study author, told TODAY Parents that the teens who saw themselves as less favored than their siblings and whose parents didn’t connect with them emotionally were at least twice as likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. Those who lived in homes where there was an abundance of warmth and family intimacy appeared to be unaffected by favoritism.
Jensen says he’s not surprised that there can be a disconnect between children who believe their siblings are the favorite and the well-intentioned parents who think they are treating their offspring equally. Some decisions parents make, such as bedtimes and chores, are based on age — but may not be seen that way by the kids unless the parents explain why they’ve made certain rules. He adds that spending more time with your kids, individually and as a family, is a way to show them love and concern.
Researchers concluded that family dynamics can make all the difference. It’s important for parents to realize that to kids even the perception of playing favorites could have a negative impact.