Expert Advice

Favourite child: The youngest is the chosen one

Think parents love their children equally? Research begs to differ.

By Fiona Wright
Most parents swear they love their children equally. Of course they do... except they don't.
According to research, parents tend to favour the baby of the family. A UK parenting website, Mumsnet, surveyed 1,185 parents to find out if they had a favourite child. More than half of the respondents admitted to preferring the youngest child.
The reason? The youngest was less of a handful than their more "tricky and demanding" siblings.
You adore them both... but do you favour one over the other? (Image: Getty Images)
The survey backs up the results of a study published by researchers at Brigham Young University's School of Family Life which also found the youngest child is the favourite for most families.
Interestingly, the study of 300 families each with two teenagers, revealed it was beneficial for the youngest to feel favoured, as when they did, they had a better relationship with their parents.
In contrast, whether or not the older siblings felt favoured had no impact on their relationship with their parents. The researchers believe this is due to social comparison, with younger siblings placing more emphasis on comparing themselves to their older siblings.
"It's not that first-borns don't ever think about their siblings and themselves in reference to them," says BYU School of Family Life assistant professor Alex Jensen. "It's just not as active of a part of their daily life.
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Ok, you've admitted to yourself you have a favourite child. Now what?
Professor Jensen says parents just need to focus on treating kids fairly, rather than equally.
"When parents are more loving and they're more supportive and consistent with all of the kids, the favouritism tends to not matter as much," he explains. "Some parents feel like 'I need to treat them the same.'
"What I would say is 'No, you need to treat them fairly, but not equally.' If you focus on it being OK to treat them differently because they're different people and have different needs, that's OK."