Studies reveal parents do have a favourite child

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“It’s impossible not to have favourites, and we do know that the perception of favouritism is one of the biggest factors in sibling rivalry."

Parents of multiple children often claim that they do not have a favourite child in an attempt to placate everyone involved; favouritism, after all, does not promote equality in the household.

But new studies show that most parents do have a favourite, even if they don't admit it out loud.

In an American study conducted by professor Katherine Conger, which examined 384 families with children born four years of each other, it revealed that 74 percent of mothers and 70 per cent of fathers reported preferential treatment towards one child.

First-born children believe that they are the preferred child, the research also revealed.

Younger children believe so, too.

“Our working hypothesis was that older, earlier born children would be more affected by perceptions of differential treatment due to their status as older child—more power due to age and size, more time with parents— in the family,” said lead researcher Katherine Conger to Quartz.

In general, children believe they are being treated unfairly.

“Everyone feels their brother or sister is getting a better deal,” she said. “Regardless of how you look at it, both [elder and younger children] are perceiving preferential treatment.”

Other professional experts also weighed in on the idea, believing that parents have a natural inclination to prefer one child over the other.

“It’s impossible not to have favourites, and we do know that the perception of favouritism is one of the biggest factors in sibling rivalry,” said Dr. Barbara Howard to a New York Times report.

Birth order plays an important role in parents’ favouritism.

In the same NYT report, Catherine Salmon, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Redlands in California, said:

“Middle children are less likely to be favourites, compared with first children, who monopolise their parents, for that first period, and last children, who represent a final chance to invest.”

Mums and dads, how does this report make you feel? In your household, is there really a preferential treatment toward one child that the other don't experience?

If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them with us.

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Written by

James Martinez