Parents and the "F" Word
How Parental Favoritism Affects Each Child In The Family Constellation
In families where there are two children or more, parents tend to favor one particular child over another child and/or other children within the same family constellation. The operating definition of favoritism is why parents preferentially treat one child better than another child/other children within the same family constellation e.g. parents giving one child more affection and material goods than they give his/her sibing(s). According to psychologist/author Ellen Weber Libby, author of THE FAVORITE CHILD, children who are the favorite in their families tend to be more self-confident as a child which translates into being more successful in career and life as an adult. Dr. Libby further asserted that sons and daughters who are their father's favorites are more career oriented than sons and daughters who are their mother's favorites. Dr. Libby added that sons and daughters who are the mother's favorites are better caretakers and caregivers.
A sibling who is the object of parental favoritism believes himself/herself to be godlike and is entitled. Often the favored sibling is spoiled and believes that life should revolve around him/her. Barbara Johnson, an inspirational speaker, asserted that favoritism is de rigueur in multichild families. Ms. Johnson maintained that anytime parents have more than one child, it is natural for parents to love one child more than another depending upon the circumstances.
In a study done by Dunn and Plomin in 1990 and McGuire in 2002, it confirmed that parents regularly practice favoritism in multichild families based upon the individual child's temperament, personality, and birth order. In the article, CENTER OF ATTENTION: FAVORITISM IN FAMILIES, Jesse Brown, an entrepreneur who owns a holistic health center, is one of three children and the only brother among the two sisters in the family. According to his sisters, his parents gave him everything he wanted especially a car while they had to work for what they wanted.
In multichild families, there is ALWAYS a favorite. The negative effects of favoritism include resentment among the less favored sibing(s) towards the more favored sibling(s). In my mother's family of ten siblings, the resentment was towards the youngest sibling who the rest of the family contend had the easiest and most carefree childhood. My maternal aunt, who was the third of ten, especially resented her as she achieved the most out of the ten siblings, having a high powered, executive position that earned near six figures. My mother even resented her because she had the easiest out of the ten siblings..My mother often said that SHE WISHED THAT SHE WAS THE YOUNGEST, NOT THE OLDEST in her family as she was the family's overworked and underappreciated mascot.
Another negative result of being a favorite child in the family is stress and being held to a higher standard. It is analogous to being a teacher's pet as that too causes stress and the pupil being held to higher standards. Also the other classmate detest the teacher's pet because of the privileges the teacher's pet receives. However, if a child is the favorite in the family, he/she often gets away with more, receives more privileges, and less harsher punishments than the other children in the same family constellation.
In the family constellation, it is usually the oldest children or the youngest who are their parents' favorites. It is seldom the middle children who are their parents' favorites. The middle children in the family is often the unfavored, neglected, or the ignored in the family constellation.
The issue of favoritism is a crux in many families. The favorite child is often idolized, placed on a pedestal, and is considered to be the golden child. He/she is perceived to do no wrong and seen as blameless and flawless. Another study authenticated that favoritism occurs often in large families where there are more children competing for the affection, attention, and favor of two parents. In fact, FAVORITISM is MORE PREVALENT in large families because of the increased ratio of children to parents because of the aforementioned.
Now what happens to the unfavored child. Studies show that children who were unfavored subsequently develop deep psychological and self-esteem issues which often impact them later on in life. Children who were unfavored by their parents were more likely to suffer from depression and other mental illness than the average population. There are even more serious consequences of favoritism. Favoritism within families breed hatred and jealously among siblings. It can even result in the unfavored child bullying and physically abusing the favorite sibling.
However, it makes many unfavored children become fiercely individualistic, unconventional, and independent. This child believes that since he/she was not a favorite child, he/she is free to pursue his/her own interests anyway that he/she wants. For example, the Kelly clan of Philadelphia. Jack Kelly, a self-made millionaire, had four children, and Grace was the middle child. According to biographical sources, Mr. Kelly favored Peggy, his firstborn over Grace. It was reported that Mr. Kelly favored Peggy because she was extroverted and athletic whereas Grace was introverted and artistic. Ms. Kelly reported that she was always the unfavored child in the family. Ms. Kelly did not let her unfavored status in the family negatively affect her, She went on her way and accomplished things that her more favored sister did not. She become a highly respected Hollywood actress garnered an Academy Award. She later become Princess of Monaco. How is that for an ending!
In conclusion, the issue of familial favoritism is commonplace in families where there are two children or more. Favoritism often places siblings in adversarial relationship which often never mends. While the favored child in the family develops a high degree of confidence, self-esteem, and sense of being important, the unfavored child either becomes embittered, jealous, and resentment of the favored child. This resentment and jealously can result of sibling bullying and sometimes sibling abuse. The majority of parents admitted to favoring one child over his/her siblings. I believe when parents bring their children into the world, they have the obligation to love all their children equally. Favoritism is an insidious practice and has no place in family life.
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© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams
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