“Perceived favouritism from one’s mother still matters to a child’s psychological well-being, even if they have been living for years outside the parental home and have started families of their own,”
Study researcher Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University gerontologist says, “It doesn’t matter whether you are the chosen child or not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings.”
When mom repeatedly singles out one adult child more than another, be it to sing praises of one or to give a slap on the wrist another, she’s is unwittingly contributing to her child’s depression. Even mom’s favourites may take a hit. “Interestingly, being the favourite child has some serious drawbacks, research has found,” Pillemer told LiveScience.
“The favoured child can feel guilty, and he or she can experience negative relationships with the other siblings, who may be resentful. With older parents, favoured children may be expected to provide more care and assistance for the parent, leading to stress.”
So which child is favoured? Well, Pillemer is still figuring this out. Most of the time it tends to either be the oldest or the youngest child as opposed to the middle children. Moms also lean towards those children who are more similar to them in personal traits and values.
This revelation was based on results of interviews conducted between Aug 2001 and Jan 2003 with 275 Boston-area mothers in their 60s and 70s, who had at least two living adult children. It was found that adult children were the ones more likely to believe that their mom had a favourite – 15% of children who thought that there was no favouritism, while 30% of the mums said the same. In addition, perception of favouritism in adults resulted in higher levels of long-term depression that actual favouritism.
What you can do as a parent
To combat favouritism or differential treatments, parents should be very honest with themselves. If a parent discovers or is told that they tend to always favour one child or is particularly hard on another, they need to change their behaviour.
No matter how old or young, how close or how far, how rich or how poor, your kids will always remain your kids. Favouritism from mom will most probably result in detrimental effects on the relationship of siblings in the long run. For this reason, be aware of how you treat your kids. The effects may last a lot longer than you think.
If you think you favour one of your children or if you felt the effects of favouritism when you were young, please share about your experience in the comment area below.