The Family Ties That Protect: Expanded-Self Comparisons in Parent-Child Relationships
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Description: We examine whether individuals react to social comparisons involving their parent or child as they would to comparisons involving the self. Individuals reported high self-other overlap for mother and child, but not father (Pilot Study), suggesting that individuals may experience mother’s and child’s outcomes as their own. After recalling upward comparisons, high overlap children (undergraduate students; Study 1) protect their perceptions of their mother, but not father, and parents (with children 18 or younger; Studies 2-3), regardless of overlap, protect their perceptions of their child: They changed the meaning of threatening upward comparisons by rating domains as less important and attributing less responsibility to family members. Finally, we examined self-attributions to rule out the alternative explanation that individuals use these strategies to protect themselves because they feel personally responsible for family members’ outcomes. These studies suggest that individuals experience mother, but not father, comparisons as if they were directly involved but only if they are high in overlap. In contrast, parents experience child comparisons as if they were comparing themselves directly regardless of overlap.