Parental favoritism

can be detrimental to long-term psyche

(Design: Jordan News)
A child’s emotional well-being relies highly on their parent’s love, care, and support. A child will be motivated when they feel encouraged by their parents and consequently will feel demotivated when a parent fails to do so. Therefore, parents need to be very cautious about treating all their children fairly to avoid making any of them feel neglected or negatively impact their self-esteem. اضافة اعلان

Some might say that favoritism is inevitable, and parents tend to pick favorites in many families. For example, parents might give undue attention to their youngest or most academically gifted child. In some blended families, parents might favor their biological children over their step-children.

In patriarchal societies, such as in the Middle East, parents and family members tend to be more lenient and display more affection towards the male child.

While many parents try their best to avoid favoritism, some develop a deeper bond or emotional attachment to a child than the rest of their siblings. While parents might fail to recognize it, their children almost always do.

When children feel as though there is a disjunction between what they receive and what they believe they deserve, it is displayed through negative behavioral reactions.

Parental favoritism is when one or both parents consistently show preference toward one child over another. This can look like spending more time with the child and allowing them more privileges and less discipline.

It may be a running joke in the family about who the favorite is, but research suggests that playing favorites is no joking matter.

Studies have shown a significant correlation between perceived parental favoritism and academic achievement. A study done at Union College showed that students who feel as though their parents showed extreme favoritism had an overall lower grade point than those who reported slight favoritism.

A 2015 study published by Oxford University showed that depressive symptoms were higher in children who identified themselves as being the children with whom their mothers were most disappointed in or had the greatest conflict with their mothers.
In patriarchal societies, such as in the Middle East, parents and family members tend to be more lenient and display more affection towards the male child.
Not only does parental favoritism hinder the relationship between parents and their “disfavored” child, but it also negatively affects the relationship between siblings. A 2021 study published in the International Journal of Innovative Science and Research Technology suggests that parents are one of the major factors that lead to increased conflict and less harmony between siblings due to inconsistencies in privileges and discipline.

Women are more likely to perceive favoritism amongst their siblings, with 45 percent of women saying their parents had a favorite child, according to the Institute for Family Studies.

Favoring a child does not necessarily mean that the parent is spending more time or giving more attention to one child. The problem is deeper than that, especially regarding basic rights such as education and the distribution of financial resources.

According to a Jordan National Youth Assessment carried out by the USAID, males as still favored by their families to continue their education over their female siblings, whose parents can decide to remove them from school. Parents who take their daughters out of school tend to be more preoccupied with maintaining family honor that is directly linked to their daughter’s reputation.

The report also found that when parents find that a school environment facilitates their daughter’s socialization with other men, a decision is often made to stop her education in favor of marriage.

Other societal and cultural factors play into such decisions, but favoritism is a huge factor in determining the future of these women. This kick starts a vicious cycle of women being unhappy and unsatisfied in their roles as mothers and wives due to being forced into these roles, while their male siblings are allowed to complete their education and enter the workforce.

While general parenting practices actively disfavor showing any kind of favoritism, certain factors and life circumstances may subconsciously force parents to express more leniency or even develop a deeper connection with one child over their siblings.

When a parent is aware of this, it can further result in them developing feelings of guilt, remorse, or negative emotions associated with the unflavored child, driving a further wedge between them.

In Jordan, society might favor the birth of a boy as he is seen as the one to help the family in the future financially. This can be seen in lower socioeconomic families. So, when a daughter is born, she may be resented by her mother, who will feel as though she did not fulfill her job of giving birth to a boy, and may even be resented by her father, who might view her as a financial burden.

One reason a certain detachment can occur between a parent and a child, leading to perceived favoritism, is a major traumatic event or life challenges associated with that child. For example, if a child is conceived without a desire or unexpectedly, the parent may withdraw emotionally, physically, and/or cognitively, causing a breach in the parent-child relationship.

Furthermore, if a child is born with a congenital disability or academic, psychological, or psychiatric challenges, caring for that child may be considered burdensome for the unattached parent.

Another reason favoritism can occur is when one child resembles a parent, physically or through personality characteristics. When a parent views such resemblance as a positive thing, it can establish a fondness between the parent and child. However, if that child resembles a parent in characteristics or qualities that the parent dislikes or distains about themselves, it can cause a rift between them.

The main problem with a child’s perception of being an un-favored child is that it will most certainly take a hit on their self-esteem.

Strong self-esteem in their developmental years is extremely important for children due to its direct correlation with lessening their chances of developing behavioral issues. A child labeled the “bad kid” is more likely to act out, especially as they enter their teens. This is especially heightened when favoritism extends beyond the parents and becomes a shared sentiment amongst older family members who show bias through extra compliments, more gifts, and constant comparisons, especially during family events and holidays — causing them to shy away from social situations.
If the family does not acknowledge or address favoritism and takes no active measures to solve it, feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem will carry out into adulthood as people do not usually forget when they were not treated fairly by their parents.
When one child is favored for being talented in music or sport, this automatically makes the less favored child feel discouraged, and they will suppress any talents they may have.

Inequality in the levels of encouragement and support will cause less favored children to doubt their abilities and fail to reach their full potential. So, it is important to encourage all your children to perform to the best of their abilities and fairly praise and encourage them all.

If the family does not acknowledge or address favoritism and takes no active measures to solve it, feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem will carry out into adulthood as people do not usually forget when they were not treated fairly by their parents.

In childhood, these feelings will be exhibited through aggression and inappropriate behavior due to the child’s developed resentment towards their parents. In adolescence and early adulthood, exhibited signs of depression may develop.

A lack of parental affirmation may leave a void in a person’s life which cannot be easily filled. This is especially true in patriarchal cultures where favoritism is solely based on gender, leading girls to feel confused and tied down by cultural norms that restrict their access to basic rights such as education, financial freedom, and freedom of expression.

Because favoritism is not usually a spoken language but rather occurs through non-verbal actions, it is important to recognize a negative gesture, whether intentional or not, and modify it to ensure your child feels supported and loved.

For parents, asking, “am I being fair with all of my children, or have I shown any type of favoritism towards one of my children over the others?” can go a long way. After getting the answer, ensure that as a parent, you are not allowing any favoritism to solidify, or its repercussions could be detrimental to your children.

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