We can all agree that in a perfect world everyone would be treated equally. Everyone would be friends and get along and act cordially toward one another. But let’s face it. This is the real world. Favoritism is nothing short of inevitable.
When one person is compared to others, it comes naturally that one chooses a favorite based on similarities; it just happens. This mentality, unfortunately, doesn’t exclude parents. As much as Mom and Dad might want to treat each child equally, it becomes impossible.
Of course, when questioned on “who’s the favorite,” parents never want to admit to having a star child, but it soon becomes evident that the long-term effects of non-favored children can be visibly detrimental.
What results when parents show obvious or even subtle favoritism to one sibling over the rest? The consequences are usually negative and long- term.
According to Dr. Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re the chosen child or not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects for all siblings, the less favored kids may have ill will toward their parents or preferred sibling, and being the favored child brings resentment from one’s siblings and the added weight of greater parental expectations.”
These feelings can cause depression, social anxiety and a weakened self-esteem that causes one to question self-worth.
One popular belief behind sibling favoritism can be attributed to birth order. It is no secret that the oldest child is treated vastly different than the youngest.
Birth order is even known to affect personality traits within the child. For example, a majority of the time the oldest without a doubt suffers with the strictest rules. They can be looked at as the “example child.” How the older child performs usually sets a sort of precedent for the younger siblings. The oldest child usually exhibits leadership qualities, whereas the youngest child typically can exhibit more qualities of a wild child. Parents tend to give rules some slack. The older children made it just fine, the youngest will do just the same mentality comes into play. Younger siblings tend to be catered to when it comes to attention.
As for the middle child…well who even cares about them anyway? Am I right? The middle child tends to be the black sheep of the family. They are not quite a leader, but they also do not have to be watched intently. They’re just kind of, well, there.
Gender definitely also plays a role in determining favoritism. Some would argue that it is easier to relate and bond with the child of your own sex. I can relate to this first handedly, being not only the oldest of three siblings but also the only girl, I can say with confidence that I gave my dad a run for his money.
It wasn’t that I was a bad child or ever disobeyed my parents. But the fact that I had no older siblings for my parents to compare me to made me the “example” to my younger brothers. I was also a girly girl, so bonding with mom over manicures and massages was never an issue, but watching football with my dad never seemed to come effortlessly in my childhood.
Regardless if you are the favorite or not, don’t take it to heart when it comes to Mom and Dad showing your siblings more affection than they show you. Just as it is inevitable for our parents to choose a favorite, it is just as common for us children to have a “go-to” parent as well. Favoritism is a recurring theme in life whether it be in the job force, in school or in our own living rooms. When it comes to our family, take these favoritism molds and break them, or learn to use them as a character builder.
Summer Cabrera studies journalism. She can be reached on Twitter @TheSagebrush and at firstname.lastname@example.org.