Maybe Freud was onto something when he said your mother is at the root of every issue. According to a new study, adults who felt they were Mom's favorite — and adults who felt they had the most issues with Mom — were more likely to be depressed as adults.
Researchers at Purdue University used data from 725 adult children within 309 different families whose mothers were 65 to 75 years old when the study began in 2001. The children were surveyed on seven different measures of depression, including loneliness, trouble sleeping, and general sadness. They also answered questions about which sibling was the closest to their mother, which had the most arguments with her, which received the most pride, and which received the most disappointment.
The results, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Science, show just how strong an effect your mother can have on your psychological state as a grown-up. People who felt that they were the closest emotionally to their mothers were more likely to be depressed. But on the same token, people who identified as having the most conflict with their moms, and people who felt their moms were most disappointed in them, also were more likely to be depressed. The disappointment effect was particularly strong in African-American families.
It makes sense that being considered a letdown would take a toll on your psyche. But why would Mom's golden child feel awful as an adult? It's likely because the favorite child likely feels more responsibility for Mom as she ages and becomes more dependent on help from others, both emotionally and physically. Plus, kids who were extremely close to their moms might not have been as close to their jealous siblings.
So while the study does show that the favorite child gets a big burden in life, it's not exactly permission to mouth off against Mom any chance you get. Because if you disappoint her, you're in trouble, too.