When it comes to parenting, there are two obvious assertions. Firstly, all parents love their children, and this unconditional blessing is something that overcome anything that comes their way. Secondly, all parents strive to maintain equal relationships with their children, while also ensuring that there is minimal jealously between siblings.
The idea of showing any kind of favouritism to a child is abhorrent to most parents, but this is not necessarily as clear-cut or as heinous as it sounds. In fact, parents can subconsciously favour one child or another, automatically leading to the cultivation of slightly closer and more fulfilling relationships.
Why are some People closer to their Parents?
For those of you who are still unsure or uneasy about this concept, let’s debunk some of the misconceptions that exist surround favouritism between parents and their children. While the stereotypical view suggests that parents may favour a particularly child due to their personality, achievements or gender, there are in fact deeper psychological reasons why such feelings arise. This has been explored further in a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which revealed some surprising findings about the relationships between parents and their children.
This study, which canvassed the opinion of several hundred women over the age of 65, revealed that three-quarters identified one child who was the most likely to be their primary care-giver in the future. Not only was this viewpoint generally fixed over time, but it also based on the mother’s perception that this child shares their fundamental values and views. It appears that this, more than any other factor, may create favouritism in our relationship with parents, as we tend to bond more closely with individuals who are similar to ourselves.
How similar Values drive and Impact on the Relationship with our Parents
Interestingly, even those of us who are able to select our friends from a large and diverse group tend to forge close relationships with people who share our outlook and values. A study entitled Group Processes and Intergroup Relations explored this further, confirming the age-old opinion that we have a universal preference for similarity. While this does not always lead to the best friendships and in some instances may restrict personal growth, when we are presented with choice we tend to make the instinctive and unconscious decision to favour individuals with similar values.
When evaluating our relationship with parents, the instinctive need for similarity and the bonds subconsciously developed by shared values clearly create a scenario where favouritism can breed. While we have already stated that this does not reflect badly or parents or necessarily manifest itself within the relationship, it is important to keep in mind as it can impact on both adult sibling relationships and the cultivation of nurturing patterns. Although favoured children can benefit from a deeper emotional connection with their mother or father, for example, they may also be required to carry a greater burden of responsibility and expectations.
The Last Word
Given the complexity of the human mind and its changeable nature, it is easy to presume that favouritism between parents and children may be influenced by superficial factors such as gender bias or a shared taste in movies. This is far from the case, however, as there are in fact unconscious emotional triggers that may cause parents to favour one child over another.
Both parents and children need to understand these in greater detail, so that they can comprehend the true nature of favouritism and the factors that influence our relationships. This can help to negate the emotional issues associated with favouritism, while empowering parents to maintain equal relationships with their children and cultivate trust between siblings.