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What happens when you have a ‘favourite’ child – devastating effects explained



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Pre-kids, the idea of having a favourite child probably struck you with horror.

Yet 85 per cent of respondents in a study believed that their own mums did indeed favour one child over the other.

Maybe this rings painfully true for your childhood. Maybe it even rings true now you have a family of your own, – despite your best intentions.

For parents who fall into this trap, it’s unlikely they set out to play favourites.

Factors such as stress can have a huge impact on how a parent individually treats their kids, Mamamia reports.

Unsurprisingly, perceived favouritism can be incredibly damaging.

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It can create a rift between siblings and is related to siblings not feeling very close to one another.

This feeling of division and estrangement is something which can continue into adulthood.

For the child who does not feel favoured specifically, the consequences can be devastating:

“The unfavoured child can feel defeated, and unmotivated, as a result of working hard to get parental affirmation and support, with no success,” Yelena Gidenko, PhD, LPC, a licensed professional counsellor tells Reader’s Digest.

“He or she may also suffer from depression and become angry, bitter, resentful, or jealous,” she explains.

The fall-out also means “Unfavoured children may have a hard time accepting who they are, since they do not feel accepted by their parents,” she adds.

It’s not just the “unfavoured” child who is damaged – the “favourite” doesn’t get to escape unscathed either.

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“Favoured children may feel a sense of entitlement, and that rules do not apply to them,” says Dr. Gidenko.

Alternatively, sometimes the reverse scenario can occur with the “favoured” child, and they may instead experience anxiety and insecurity from childhood and in adulthood.

What can you do?

It’s impossible to treat different children the same, as each child and your relationship with said child will be different.

What is advised, however, is that you treat children fairly, by meeting all of their needs.

Dr Susan Newman, a social psychologist further advises: “Children’s needs are love, affection, warmth, and time with their parents. Parents can equalise that.”

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