Well this just confirms what I always knew. I AM my parents favorite child! 😉 But seriously, am I?
What are your thoughts about this?
originally published on AWW.com.au
When writer Kate Tietje confessed that she loved her son “just a little bit more” than her daughter, she provoked an enormous response.
Yet, surprisingly, there was more empathy than anger. Many parents sheepishly – and anonymously – confessed that they had a favourite, too.
“This is exactly how I feel with my three-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son,” read one comment.
Parents who say they don’t have a favourite child are lying, says Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect.
There might be equal amounts of love, but parents usually have a stronger connection to one of their children.
Not that they admit it, perhaps even to themselves, but that doesn’t matter, their preference will be betrayed by their actions.
“They tend to direct more attention to one child than another – their laughter, applause – and they tend to celebrate accomplishments [of the favourite child] with greater enthusiasm,” says Jeffrey.His view is backed by myriad studies.
One showed 70 per cent of fathers and 60 per cent of mothers demonstrated a preference for one child over another even when they knew their behaviour was being watched.
In another, 70 per cent of mothers named a child to whom they felt closest.
Children pick up on this, says Professor Dalton Conley, head of social sciences at New York University.
When siblings are interviewed as adults, they will all name the favourite.
“They are shocked at the agreement between them,” he says.
Often, the parent’s favourite will be the child most like them, with extra points if they are the opposite gender – Daddy’s girl or Mummy’s boy.
“We are all reproductive narcissists,” says Jeffrey Kluger.
“We have children because we are driven by this primal need to reproduce ourselves. We tend to respond best to a child who reminds us of ourselves the most.”
If the favourite is the opposite gender, it seems like a “greater level of effort is going into it”, says Jeffrey.
Jeffrey himself was the second child in a family of four boys, in which the eldest son was his father’s favourite and the youngest son was his mother’s.
The last son was the boy her husband didn’t want and was, therefore, the most vulnerable in his mother’s eyes.
He knows this because, in her old age, his mother finally admitted it.
“I think, at this point, she thinks, ‘Who’s kidding whom?’” he says.
“It was a very sweet effort she made for all those years, into her 70s.”
There are also market forces which determine favour in families.
Parents have limited amounts of time and money, so must distribute them wisely.
Children will instinctively learn how to compete for those resources.
“We found that sibling equality is really a luxury,” says Professor Conley.
“Wealthier parents can afford to invest in a way that creates equality. Sometimes, wealthier families are more likely to send the kid that’s doing the worst to private school. Poorer families have to put eggs in the most promising kid’s basket.”
Birth order is also important, particularly when there are more than two children.
The first-born is often the favourite, simply due to, as Jeffrey Kluger puts it, “the rule of sunk costs” – parents have made a bigger investment.
Studies have shown that first-borns tend to be taller, stronger and slightly smarter as a result of having the undivided attention of their parents early in life.