Study finds that most parents have a favorite child
When we were children, the most important people in our lives were our parents. They took care of us, they taught us how to behave, and, for the most part, they were pretty much the biggest influence on how we saw the world. It makes sense, then, that we wanted to do all we could to impress them.
If you're an only child, this wasn't too difficult to do; you didn't have any competition to live up to, and your parents couldn't really stay mad at you for too long because they didn't have any backup kids to give their attention to.
However, if you have siblings, you will know that there was always a sense of rivalry. As much as you loved your brother(s) and/or sister(s), you found it difficult to accept times when they had done markedly better than you at something. While this was not necessarily because you wanted to be the best, it came more down to the fact that because you wanted to be the favourite.
But while your parents would always insist that they loved you all the same, regardless of how often you got an A grade or made the sports team... They were lying.
A study of 768 parents by the University of California showed that 70 per cent of mothers and 74 per cent of fathers admitted that they had one child that they liked the best.
Every family in the study had the same basic dynamic: two parents and two children, and the kids had an age gap of four years or less. (Sorry middle children, you don't get a say in this).
The survey did not require parents to specify which child was their favourite but, due to the answers given, researchers inferred that the oldest child was secretly the preferred choice for both mothers and fathers, regardless of gender.
With that knowledge in mind, researchers then asked the children of those parents if they felt they were treated differently to their siblings and, if so, whether or not that affected their self-esteem. Older children didn't seem to feel too strongly either way, but younger siblings were definitely impacted by the subtle favouritism, often being left to feel second best.
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Katherine Conger, who conducted the research, explained that this outcome was actually the opposite of what they had predicted. “Our working hypothesis was that older, earlier born children would be more affected by perceptions of differential treatment due to their status as older child—more power due to age and size, more time with parents— in the family," she said.
However, the study also found that - no matter whether the child was the elder or younger of the pair - kids always felt like their sibling was loved more. “Everyone feels their brother or sister is getting a better deal,” Conger said. “Regardless of how you look at it, both [earlier and later-born kids] are perceiving preferential treatment.”
So, even if your parents do have a favourite (which I'm sure they'll claim they don't), you probably always felt like it was your sibling anyway, so it doesn't really make a difference.
And if you're an only child - well, if you're not the favourite, you must have messed up big time.