Do parents really have a favourite child?
Sociologist Katherine Conger's study confirms what most of us have feared all along, both as parents, and as children of our parents : That parents do have a favourite child!
This moral dilemma has been discussed at length by Mediacorp TV host Diana Ser, in a recent article on Today.
Diana Ser grew up as a favourite child
Diana Ser apparently grew up as the 'favourite child' of the family, and actually felt guilty about it. Now, a mother of 3, she often finds herself in constant denial when accused of favouring any one child.
But according to author Jeffrey Kluger, admit it or not, parents are hard-wired to show favouritism. In his book, "The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us", he declares, "It is my belief that 95 per cent of the parents in the world have a favourite child, and the other five per cent are lying.”
Katherine's study revealed that most first borns felt they were the preferred child, while younger siblings resented the first-born bias, and said that it affected their self-esteem.
Indeed. Growing up as the second born child in my family, I not only had to deal with the first-born bias, but also the 'boy child' bias prevalent in many Asian families. I remember trying extra hard to be good, and to match up to my brother, but always having to settle for "second best".
For the longest time, I did not want a second child, because I wanted my daughter to grow up with all my love and attention. And then, the second one came along after close to 6 years!
So tiny and delicate was she, in comparison to her sister, that I started ignoring the older child. "Oh, she is old enough to do that on her own. Let me take care of the little one", became my then favourite refrain.
Even if I knew the little one was in the wrong, I would end up yielding to her tantrums, and scold her sister instead.
But in recent times there has been a shift. As my older daughter enters her teens, I find myself reaching out to her more as a friend, than as a parent. I no longer need to censor every bit of information that falls out of my mouth; I even find myself asking for her opinion on everything, ranging from the articles I write, to the clothes I wear. And I now realise how much I rely on her to cheer me up, in moments of despair and depression.
Maybe clinical psychologist and author of "The Favourite Child", Ellen Weber Libby, does have a point when she says that some families show a “shifting favouritism”. It means that children take turns being the favourite child; which is actually quite normal, considering that the parent-child dynamic is almost always changing and evolving.
Most parents have "short term favourites", depending on who's going through what, but the underlying love is the same. In any case, it's normal for parents to have that special soft corner for a child, just like it is for a child to feel the same for a parent.
As a child, I'd often get asked, "Who do you love more? Mummy or Daddy?" I'd say, "Both." In my heart though, I knew I was lying.
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