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Differential Treatment

Despite social norms in Western culture that call for parents to treat their children equally, parental differential treatment (PDT) of offspring is pervasive throughout the life course. Over the past 30 years, scholars have investigated the nature and implications of PDT for individuals and family well-being. This entry summarizes the broad findings from this work, by first describing how differential treatment is manifested at various points of the life course and then explicating the implications of differential treatment for children’s, adolescents’, and adults’ individual and relational adjustment.

What Is Differential Treatment?

PDT encompasses instances in which parents treat their children differently and, potentially, inequitably. In childhood and adolescence, differential treatment is most often conceptualized into two broad domains: (a) differences in how parents rear and relate to ...

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