Although the importance of parental treatment during early childhood cannot be contested, siblings who perceived themselves to be treated less favourably appeared quite content in their adulthood, according to a study.
In siblings within the same family, the study found that recalled negative experiences like discipline and conflict with parents have little influence on mid-life psychological health.
"Existing research suggests the importance of early childhood parental treatment on later well-being, but respondents in this study who thought they were treated less favorably than their siblings have been found to be just as content in their lives," said Adam Davey, a developmental psychologist in the College of Health Professions.
For the study, the researchers looked at data collected from 1,369 siblings between the ages of 26-74 from 498 different families to determine the extent to which perceived differences reach into adulthood and whether these disparities are associated with current-well being.
After accounting for age, gender and personality, each sibling answered a series of questions about their memories of parental affection, discipline and conflict and current well-being.
The researchers found that those who remembered parents being more lenient with siblings, or remembered having more conflict with their parents than their siblings, still tended to have generally high levels of well being in adulthood.
They also found that happier memories, such as levels of affection and warmth, could exert positive effects.
Older respondents and siblings who were married and had children of their own tended to have a more positive recollection of their childhood.
Davey says these findings could suggest that life experience acts as a filter for remembering childhood memories.
He adds that personality also plays a role: those who were more extroverted tended to have a better recollection of their childhood.
"Even people who grow up in the same environment can have different ways of recalling the past. And it's not necessarily what happens in the past, but the way we remember it that makes a difference in our well-being," said Davey.
The study is published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.