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Favouritism in Families and How it Impacts Child Development

In a complete family unit (married parents with children living together), children may have a favourite parent but how healthy is this to the child’s development?
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As human beings, we tend to have preferences for certain things and certain people. We have our favourites for one reason or the other, and this is based on our personal tastes, experiences, environments or simply just what makes us feel good: a favourite meal, circle of friends, travel destinations, sense of style, and so on.

But isn’t that the beauty of human nature? The ability to have your very own unique preferences, such that people can identify that thing as something ascribed to us is such an amazing concept! For instance, on the quest for a gift for a friend, you have a good idea of what that person would appreciate the most and you select that gift accordingly.

Given this, when it comes to the subject of favouritism within the family, in theory, it would seem reasonable to have a preference for one person over the other, be it a parent, a child or even a sibling (for those who have more than one).  Unfortunately, we are human beings in a family unit, and related by blood. So that makes this a very sensitive area. However, whether we like to admit it or not, we do sometimes feel like there is some imbalance in the dynamics of love in a family. This feeling is more pronounced in some families than others.

In a complete family unit (married parents with children living together), children may have a favourite parent. This depends on the age of the child and the relationship built with the parents. The reality is that some parents are distant. So this also depends on the effort parents put into establishing intimacy with their children. Another school of thought is that infants and preteens tend to favour the parent who is less disciplined and spoils them more.

With siblings, those closer in age tend to be closer to one another for the simple reason of being at the same stage in life at the same time. So they are probably in school at the same time and are at a similar stage of maturity. Siblings who are about six or more years apart do not tend to be as close. However, this still boils down to family dynamics and how members of the unit interact with one another. But again, over time, if a family remains linked as one healthy unit, this maturity gap closes up and siblings could grow closer.

The trickiest bit of favouritism in family dynamics is that of parents towards the children. No matter what the situation with other relationships in the family may be, this parent-child relationship could affect children as far as into their adulthood. So parents must be very careful; otherwise it could potentially ruin the dynamics of the entire family. Studies have revealed that majority of parents do indeed have a favourite child; and this is purely human nature. So how we manage this is very important because it could go a really long way in influencing the way our children and family turn out.

Obvious favouritism of one child over another, no matter what age the child is, could affect the children involved in many ways:

The child who is not favoured may start to resent the one who is. As a result, this affects the relationship between the siblings, and could cause feuds that could last many years (and in some cases would never be resolved).

The child who is not favoured may feel underappreciated and lose confidence in him/herself. The child who is favoured may become arrogant about it and flaunt it in the faces of the other siblings. This also gives this child a false sense of over-confidence, which is also not a positive character trait.

The child who is favoured may even go in the other direction and try to subdue the favours he receives from the parents. This may be a good thing, depending on the dynamics between the siblings; otherwise such behaviour could severely irritate the less favoured sibling(s) and lead to even deeper resentment.

The truth is that this issue is very complicated. While relationships and family dynamics are complex and require a great deal of work, we should learn to show love all our children equally. We might tend to like one more than the other and this depends on various factors such as birth order, gender, our own childhood experiences, our environment and many more.  But as parents, we need to set aside our selfishness and think ahead about the precedence we are setting for our family dynamics through the actions we make when it comes to our children.


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