According to a February 21, 2013 report by Mail Online newspaper, 1 in 12 parents admits to having a child they love more than their other children. 62% of parents stated that they do not give all their children equal attention.
Many parents stated that the reason they favor one child over others is feeling a STRONGER BOND with the favored child. 8% of parents acknowledged that THEY treated the favored child more preferentially than their other children. 25% of the favored children according to the report was the oldest child. Many parents felt that the oldest child was someone they have a rapport and can do activities with.
Favoritism in familie seem to be more common than what is supposed. While only a minute percentage of parents acknowledge and mention it, the majority of parents DO practice it; however, they WILL NEVER admit to it! What is your take on this? Do you agree that favoritism is commonplace but is seldom acknowledged? Why? Why not?
In my work with a thousand+ Midwestern families in therapy and counseling settings [and similar discussed in dozens of recent journal articles to date (May 2013)], I found that among the clients I saw, favoritism was shown by parents to one child or children over others in the nucear family for a particular reason that was not bonding, but also that bonding was a secondary gain. The reason given by parents as "bonding" seems often to be, rather, a case of manipulation through image management. The "bonding" excuse, as it were, allows parents to admit favoritism more openly and favoritism was found and admitted in at least 70% of families (see end of this answer for the studies).
What I saw was parents plying a favored child(ren) with attention, money, gifts, parties, additional privileges, etc., while belittling and exluding the remaining healthier child(ren), because the favored child(ren) suffered physical or psychological illnesses the parents wished to hide.
Many instances of physical and psychological conditions I saw included conditions already diagnosed by physicians of record: speech impediments, learning disorders, ADHD, and even substance abuse as early as age 8 and 10 years - parents belittled healthier children and favored those with "problems", insisting that there were no problems except for the healthier, often high-achieving children, who "were the problems." In fact, the parents and children with diagnoses often bonded to gang up against healthier siblings in order to verbally attack and belittle them - we see that in family therapy consistently, anyway, no matter what the demographics of the clients. These 1000+ families I mentioned were not healthy - that's why we were seeing them. The attitude of the parents was generally, "See how we shower the favored child with love and material goods and shun the other(s) - the favored child is the best child and has nothing wrong with him/her." This type of favoritism was a serious problem. Is every case of favoritism so serious? I do not know.
How often the problem I saw occurs in the general population, I've no idea, but I am seeing it among a dozen of my own friends (couples) with college-aged children - the favored child is a diagnosed, non-recovering alcoholic in 100% of these families. This leads me to wonder if a certain proportion or all of parental favoritism is a function of or similar to codependence to individual(s) that suffer a range of troubling conditions and illnesses. Whatever its nature, it is not healthy.
How often in the general population does favoritism mask a "family secret" of a physical or psychological condition? I do not know.
Evidence does suggest that favoritism is linked to depression in the favored AND non-favored kids in their adulthood, especially middle age; and, child favoritism likely happens in at least 70% of families. -- References: Karl Pillemer in his contribution to a paper, “The Role of Parental Favoritism in Sibling Relations in Midlife”, in the Journal of Marriage and Family (April 2010) and “Effects of Perceptions of Mothers" and Fathers’ Favoritism on Sibling Tension in Adulthood." Resubmitted recently to the Journal Gerontology: Social Sciences.
Quite an insightful, spot on analysis you have made. Parents play favorites with their children for a myriad of reasons, some are blatantly overt while others are insidiously covert. Children who are parental favorites oftentimes have unwritten expectations placed upon them.
Many favorite children have obligations placed upon them by the parents. Such parents feel that their favorite children OWE them for the preferential treatment they have received. There is also quite a negative side to the favoritism equation. Thank you for stopping by Patty and adding to the discussion. Happy Mother's Day!
Happy Mother's Day to you as well! Thanks for asking this question, because I think a lot of people don't think too much about it.
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