Favouritism by mothers negatively affect kids: Study

Washington: Every mother may have a
favourite child among the siblings, but by singling out just
one kid she may be unwittingly contributing to her offspring`s
depression, a new research has suggested.

The study found that mother`s favouritism affects
children even after they move out and start their own families
as depression levels were higher in adult children who thought
their mom was closest to a particular child in the family.

"Perceived favouritism from one`s mother still matters
to a child`s psychological well-being, even if they have been
living for years outside the parental home and have started
families of their own," said study researcher Karl Pillemer, a
Cornell University gerontologist.

"It doesn`t matter whether you are the chosen child or
not, the perception of unequal treatment has damaging effects
for all siblings.

"Interestingly, being the favourite child has some
serious drawbacks, research has found," Pillemer told

"The favoured child can feel guilty, and he or she can
experience negative relationships with the other siblings, who
may be resentful. With older parents, favoured children may be
expected to provide more care and assistance for the parent,
leading to stress."

According to the research, based on interviews of 275
families in Boston, parents tend to prefer olders or youngest
children compared to the middle ones.

For the study, the researchers interviewed the mothers,
who were in their 60s and 70s, and 671 of their children whose
average age was 43.

To gauge favouritism, the researchers asked the moms
three questions: which child they had the most emotional
closeness, which one they feel would help them if they fall
ill and which one they had most disagreements.

The majority of moms differentiated: 70 per cent of
mothers named a child they felt closest to; 79 per cent named
a child as the most likely caregiver; and 73 per cent named a
child she had the most arguments and disagreements with.

The adult children were more likely to believe their
mom had a favourite child than was actually the case. Just 15
per cent of children said there was no favouritism, but 30 per
cent of moms reported the same.

According to the researchers, perception of favouritism
had more impact on well-being than actual favouritism and
depression scores were higher for adult children who believed
their mom was closest to a particular child in the family.

Adult children who reported their mothers had greater
conflict with a particular sibling also reported higher

Though the scientists didn`t find a link between
depression and a mom`s actual differentiation among her
children regarding conflict or emotional closeness,
favouritism by mom found to have a detrimental effect on the
quality of sibling relations in adulthood.

"We know that the quality of relationships between
adult children and their parents can have a significant effect
on children`s psychological well-being," Pillemer said.

"In addition, parent-child relationships continue
after children leave the home." Just as the relationships
continue, so do the effects of favouritism, he added.