Favoring One Kid Over Another Can Make Them Sick

Amy Kuras

Have you ever admitted to having a favorite child? Admitting to a favorite kid is one of the biggest taboos in parenting, although the vast majority of moms -- and pretty much all kids -- perceive that there is a golden child in just about every family.

This is a special concern for us toddler moms, because the issue most often arises when a new sibling joins the family. It's also when your little one's personality really begins to gel.

It's a tough line to walk between being genuine with your kids (they can spot insincerity a mile away) and not favoring one over the other. While we might love them equally, each kid is an entirely different creature -- and it's pretty normal to connect differently with each of them.

I "get" my daughter much better than I do my son because she's a lot like me (and my husband feels the same way about our son, who's a lot like him). On the other hand, my son is so adorable and sweet-natured that it's hard not to gush over him endlessly in a way I don't over my daughter because, while also adorable, she's very strong willed and a more spirited kid.

As someone who came out on the losing end of the favorite-child equation, I try really, really hard to treat my kids equally and think I do okay most of the time. However, a new study of grown children and their parents finds that 70 percent of mothers identified a child they felt closest to, and 85 percent of kids said they felt unequal treatment by their parents. In other words, none of us does as well as we think.

Unfortunately, kids who feel their mother consistently favors or rejects one child can have depressive symptoms well into adulthood. Surprisingly, that effect doesn't just happen for the black sheep; the golden child experiences it too.

Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer, who co-directed the study, explained, "The less favored kids may have ill will toward their mother or preferred sibling, and being the favored child brings resentment from one's siblings and the added weight of greater parental expectations."

Eeesh. Time for me to go hug both my kids.

Do you have a favorite child? Do you think your kids sense it?


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