The Consequences of Having a Favorite Child

Having a favorite child can seriously damage children's family relationships and personal development. Keep reading to learn more.
The Consequences of Having a Favorite Child
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When you have multiple children, feeling more affinity towards one of them is common and sometimes inevitable. However, having a favorite child can negatively affect all family dynamics, and there are consequences for all kids.

Having a favorite child

Parents are human beings and, therefore, we might feel more of a connection towards some of our children for different reasons. It’s common for the favorite child to be the oldest or youngest. Also, you can feel closer to some of your children because they’re more like you.

Laughing, loving, sweet and generally easy-to-raise kids can easily become their parents’ favorites. However, some parents give all of their attention to the most difficult child or with special needs, neglecting the rest.

Whatever the situation, it’s our job to be balanced and love all children equally. It’s our responsibility to give them healthy personal development. If you have a favorite child, that makes developing healthily very difficult.

Consequences for the siblings

  • Children who don’t get the same support from their parents as their sibling will feel like they didn’t earn their parents’ love. Then, they’ll be withdrawn and reserved, and won’t express their problems.
The Consequences of Having a Favorite Child
  • If they think their parents have a favorite, the other kids will start to feel rejection and mistrust towards their parents. They’ll also start to seek support outside the home, and can become dependent people as adults.
  • Non-favorite children can develop bad behavior to get attention. Whether at home or at school, they can develop disruptive behavior.
  • Knowing that their parents somewhat neglect them, they’ll suffer from low self-esteem and an inability to compete. They won’t feel like they can achieve their goals, and they won’t be motivated to pursue them.
  • If parents have a favorite child, it will definitely affect the siblings’ relationships with each other. The non-favorite children will feel jealous of the favorite. Also, they won’t be able to develop a healthy bond with him.

Consequences for the favorite child

Even though they’re the favorite, there are also consequences for the favorite child from this unbalanced relationship.

  • He’ll feel animosity from his siblings because they see him as a threat. The home environment will be competitive and not welcoming. Also, he might even think his siblings conspire against him.
  • The favorite child will feel pressure because of the high expectations his parents have for him and not his siblings. He won’t feel the freedom to make mistakes and live his own life. In fact, he’ll feel like he has to fit his parents’ vision for him.
  • Sometimes, parents are overly permissive and forgiving of their favorite child. Then, he grows up without limits, norms or consequences for his actions. He might feel lost, and it might be difficult for him to tolerate frustration as he gets older.
The Consequences of Having a Favorite Child
  • Knowing he’s the favorite, he might think he has his parents eating from the palm of his hand. So, he won’t hesitate to take advantage of this situation by claiming, demanding and blaming his siblings. Growing up, he’s more likely to become a self-centered person.

What can I do to not have a favorite child?

As we’ve mentioned, it’s human to feel more connected to some of our children. The important thing is to be aware and responsible, avoid making distinctions, and seek a fair and harmonious environment at home.

Also, make sure to include all of your children in family plans. In fact, you could even propose that each week, one child gets to pick the family activity. However, it’s also appropriate to spend moments alone with each child, offering them undivided attention.

Finally, under no circumstances should you compare your children to each other. Each child has his or her own virtues and qualities that make them unique. Be fair dealing with them, and show them the same love and discipline, without showing favoritism.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Prado, E., & Amaya, J. (2005). Padres obedientes, hijos tiranos: una generación más preocupada por la amistad que por su papel como padres. Trillas.
  • Rigat, A. (2008). Rivalidad Fraternal. Síntomas y escala para valorarlos. International journal of developmental and educational psychology4(1), 83-89.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.