Most parents have a favourite child and it's likely to be their first-born, study finds

A total of 70 per cent of mothers and 74 per cent of fathers prefer one child over another

Elsa Vulliamy
Monday 11 April 2016 18:07 BST
Younger children reported low self esteem due to parents' favouritsm
Younger children reported low self esteem due to parents' favouritsm

Most parents have a favourite child, and it’s probably the eldest, according to researchers.

A study conducted at the University of California shows that out of 768 parents surveyed, 70 per cent of mothers and 74 per cent of fathers admitted to having a favourite child.

A total of 384 families were studied; with all participants living in a family with two parents and two children where the children were born within four years of each other.

The parents did not specify which child was their favourite, but results from the study suggest it is the older child who is normally preferred.

All children in the study were asked if they felt their parents treated them differently, and whether this affected their self-esteem.

Younger children were more likely to report having low self-esteem caused by their parents’ favouritism than first-born children, suggesting that it is generally older siblings who receive special treatment.

The study was led by Katherine Conger, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of California. Professor Conger said she was surprised by the results of the study, as she had assumed older siblings would be more likely to feel like they were being treated unfairly.

She told Quartz: “Our working hypothesis was that older, earlier born children would be more affected by perceptions of differential treatment due to their status as older child—more power due to age and size, more time with parents— in the family."

Recent studies looking at sibling relationships have also found that having a younger sibling makes you less likely to be obese, and that older siblings might be more intelligent than their younger brothers and sisters.

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