“I feel terrible for even thinking it, but the truth is that out of my two children, I have a favorite. I love them both equally, of course, but I just enjoy spending time with my eldest more than my younger child. Am I a terrible person?”
There, you’ve admitted it—you really do have a favorite child. Despite the parent shaming that’s likely to follow if you share this with others, the fact is that most parents have a favorite child. So you can rest assured that this is actually a very common and totally “normal” experience. Research confirms it: In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, 75 percent of mothers admitted to feeling closer to one child (and 70 percent of fathers said the same).
Of course, in the old parenting handbook, the unspoken rule is to treat all of your children the same. Yet, parents may find themselves favoring one child for several reasons. Birth order is commonly found to be an important reason older and younger children might have special status with Mom or Dad (the “middle child syndrome” may be a thing after all). Gender and stages of development are also common factors (it’s easy to prefer your sweet 6-year-old to your moody teenager, for example).
Other factors that contribute to parents having a favorite child are related to the parents’ personality, experiences and relationships. Our children reflect parts of our personality back to us (whether good or bad). It’s no surprise that parents find it more satisfying to spend time with a child who makes them feel more successful as a parent. The power of strong family ties can be an important factor too. Some children may remind a parent of a special person in their life when they were growing up, like a deceased parent or a favorite aunt.