Sibling relationships is topic of 2013 Schmitt Russell Research Lecture

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Susan McHale, professor of human development and family studies and director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, will present the 2013 Schmitt Russell Research Lecture. Her lecture, “Love, Hate, Tolerate: The Puzzles of Sibling Relationships,” will be given at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Bennett Pierce Living Center, 110 Henderson Building. The event, sponsored by the College of Health and Human Development, is free and open to the public.

McHale's research focuses on family relationships, particularly sibling relationships. She examines the complexity of family systems by using sophisticated longitudinal and intervention research designs, within-family comparisons and daily data on family life. She is the first researcher to study gender socialization in families using longitudinal data that allow her to compare how brothers versus sisters are treated by their parents and whether and how these processes differ depending on the birth order of the son and daughter. She has found that there is some privilege inherent in being a firstborn son, particularly in families in which parents hold traditional gender attitudes. She also has found that parental differential treatment of siblings occurs more often in families in which parents are less happy in their marriages. Her work has shown that parents' differential treatment of siblings is often linked to negative outcomes such as depression, especially for the less favored child.

In addition to her role as a professor of human development and family studies, which she has held since 1994, McHale also serves as the director of the Social Science Research Institute, and Children, Youth and Family Consortium, both at Penn State. From 2002 to 2003, she served as the interim head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and from 1998 to 2002, she was a co-professor-in-charge of the department's graduate program. She joined the faculty at Penn State as an assistant professor in 1980. McHale earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at Bucknell University and master's and doctorate degrees in developmental psychology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The Schmitt Russell Research Lecture is delivered each year by the most recent recipient of the Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Achievement Award, which recognizes the career-long research contributions of a distinguished faculty member whose research has had a profound impact on an identified field of study. The award was established by Leo P. Russell, a 1941 industrial engineering graduate, to honor his late wife, Pauline Schmitt Russell, who received her home economics degree from Penn State in 1948.

Last Updated September 06, 2013