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About Parental Favoritism

parental favoritism, dad sleeping on couch while children fight over ipad causing sibling relationship issues

Favoritism among parents towards their children is a common phenomenon that has been observed across cultures and generations. Parents may have different reasons for favoring one child over another, such as gender, birth order, temperament, or achievements.

However, the effects of favoritism on siblings' relationships and psychological well-being have been the subject of much research and debate in the field of psychology.

In this article, we will examine the impact of having a favorite child on siblings and explore the psychological mechanisms underlying these effects.

Parental Favoritism: Sibling Rivalry and Jealousy

siblings fighting over toy

One of the most apparent effects of having a favorite child is the increase in sibling rivalry and jealousy. When parents openly express their preference for one child, it sends a message to the other siblings that they are not as valued or loved.

This perception of favoritism can trigger feelings of resentment, anger, and competition among siblings. Studies have shown that sibling rivalry is more severe and persistent when parents exhibit blatant favoritism towards one child.

Furthermore, sibling rivalry can lead to long-term negative consequences, such as poor sibling relationships, lower self-esteem, and mental health problems.

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The Impact of Parenting Style on Favorites

favorites between children, one child getting more presents than another

Parenting style is another significant factor that determines the impact of having a favorite child on siblings. Research has identified three main parenting styles: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative.

Authoritarian parents tend to be strict and controlling, while permissive parents are more indulgent and lenient. Authoritative parents, on the other hand, balance warmth and support with rules and expectations.

Studies have found that authoritarian and permissive parenting styles are more likely to foster favoritism and increase sibling rivalry. In contrast, authoritative parenting can mitigate the negative effects of favoritism and promote positive sibling relationships.

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The Role of Personality and Temperament in Parental Favoritism

pinterest pin parental favoritism destroys family bonds and relationships

Personality and temperament are also important factors that affect how siblings respond to favoritism. Children who are naturally more resilient, adaptive, and self-reliant may be less affected by parental favoritism.

In contrast, children who are more sensitive, anxious, and dependent may experience more significant emotional distress and psychological problems.

Moreover, the relationship between personality and sibling rivalry may be bidirectional, meaning that sibling rivalry can also shape children's personality and temperament over time.

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Thoughts on Parental Favoritism

In conclusion, having a favorite child can have a significant impact on siblings' relationships and psychological well-being. The effects of favoritism can manifest in various ways, such as increased sibling rivalry, jealousy, and emotional distress.

However, the impact of favoritism depends on various factors, such as parenting style, personality, and temperament. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to be aware of the potential consequences of favoritism and strive to treat their children equally and fairly.

By doing so, parents can foster positive sibling relationships and promote their children's psychological development and well-being.

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Linda J. Zervas & Martin F. Sherman (1994) The Relationship Between Perceived Parental Favoritism and Self-Esteem, The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 155:1, 25-33, DOI: 10.1080/00221325.1994.9914755

Suitor, J.J., Pillemer, K. Did Mom Really Love You Best? Developmental Histories, Status Transitions, and Parental Favoritism in Later Life Families. Motivation and Emotion 24, 105–120 (2000). 10.1023/A:1005663215063

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Jessica Bullwinkle, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

About the Author

Jessica Bullwinkle, LMFT

With a Master's degree in psychology, Jessica specializes in treating postpartum mothers, women with anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Jessica is a no-nonsense woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind and isn't afraid to drop a few expletives along the way. She's open about her own ADHD and hopes that by having open conversations on her podcast, she can help lift some of the stigmas surrounding women's mental health issues.

As one of the creators and hosts of the podcast, her goal is to normalize women's mental health and break the silence and stigma associated with it. It's time for an open dialogue about how women are feeling and talking about their struggles. Jessica believes that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and we should take care of it accordingly. With her expertise and her passion for mental health advocacy, Jessica is making a difference in the lives of women everywhere.

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How Parental Favoritism Can Ruin Families | 2023

sibling rivals