Do Parents Pick Favorites? Probably.

Do Parents Pick Favorites? Probably.

Nicholas VanSuch, Senior Staff Writer

Many children have siblings who live with them. According to Demographic Research, 82 percent of children under the age of 18 live with at least one sibling. Many children with siblings often ask their parents which child is their favorite. The most common response parents give to that question is: “I love you all equally.” However, research done at Purdue University shows that a majority of parents do indeed favor one child in their household. Because of this bias, some children get treated differently by their parents whether they’re a first-born, the youngest child, or somewhere in between. 

If you were to ask a middle child if he/she is treated differently than the oldest or youngest, they would most likely say yes. High-school student Alexa VanSuch—a middle child—said, “Being a middle child sucks. The oldest gets whatever he or she wants, and the youngest gets away with everything; the middle child is more or less forgotten.” It is unlikely that a parent will not have a favorite child; not every child acts the same. Oftentimes, either the youngest or oldest child is the favorite. They were either the parent’s first child or they may be the parent’s final child. The first child may be special to the parent because when the oldest was born, that became one of the most impactful moments in their lives. The youngest sibling is the parent’s final child, and they are the parent’s last link to their children before they all get older, and eventually leave. Sometimes parents favor a child with special needs or even an adopted child because that child was chosen. Some children may have personalities similar to their parents, more so than their siblings. However, being a favorite child does not mean the guardians do not love their other children, but they are treated differently.

Frequently, favorite children get advantages over their siblings. Parents will attempt to give all of their children equal attention but the favorite will most likely receive the most. High school student Alayna Martinez—the oldest of her siblings—says: “My parents usually say yes to me more times than my siblings.” She receives different treatment from her parents than her siblings do. “For example,” she says, “if my sister asked to spend the night at a friend’s, my mom would probably say no, but if I asked to spend the night somewhere she would probably say yes.”

What parents often don’t realize is that this bias extended toward one child can have negative effects on the others who are not favored.  “The non-favored child may experience low self-worth and value, feelings of rejection and inadequacy, and a sort of ‘giving up’ due to feeling like they can never be worthy of the same attention, love, and affection that the favored child receives,” states Mallory Williams, LCSW, in an online article.  Surprisingly, Williams also explains that one of the positive effects of parental favoritism is that the non-favored child sometimes develops a much more independent outlook on life, believing that he or she doesn’t really “need” anyone. 

Overall, a majority of parents choose favorites. The favorite receives advantages, but the non-favorites do not receive disadvantages. They simply miss out on the special treatment the favorite gets. It is unlikely for a caregiver to treat all of his or her children equally, and while it is sometimes only a negligible fault, it is very realistic to assume that not all siblings are treated the same by their parents.