Study finds that parents DO have favourites

Having favourites.

It’s one thing many parents never want to admit, even to themselves, but maybe there is an inkling at the back of their heads that there is one of their brood that they prefer more than the others. Who would honestly ever want to admit that they prefer one child over the other? We’re thinking not many parents ever would, and we don’t blame you.

But it’s been proven in the Journal of Family Psychology by family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, that parents do indeed have favourites and what’s more, their favouritism is shown (however subtly)!

The research

In her longitudinal study, Conger studied 384 adolescent sibling pairs (called dyads) and their parents across three years. To be in the study, kids had to be living with two biological parents, and each 7th grader (12 to 13 years old) had to have a sibling within four years of age (older or younger).

Conger’s extensive research showed that mums and dads definitively have favourites, even if they don’t know it themselves. Her research, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, showed:

  • 70% of dads and 74% of moms reported preferential treatment toward one child.
  • Most mums showed preferential treatment towards their daughters
  • Most dads showed preferential treatment towards their sons


And although this is shocking, and our immediate response is to rush and reassure our children that they are all loved equally, it turns out that all siblings will think that they’re being treated unfairly. Universal, across the board, the study showed that siblings (no matter age, or order of birth) all felt that their sibling was being treated better than them.

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So before you rush to ensure both your children get the exact same amount of dessert tonight, or signed up for equally fantastic after school activities, just know that they’ll engage in some typical competitiveness anyway!

Do you have a favourite?

But what do you think? Would you ever admit you have a favourite child amongst your friends? Or is it impossible to choose?


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