I am an only child, so obviously I am my parents’ favourite one (unless they are hiding one from me, I will find it), but having a sibling, there’s competition there, I presume. And I also presume that when there is more than one child in the family (whisper it): there’s a favourite.
And it turns out, that it’s generally the youngest. Why? Well, before we get to the research-led answers, I’d guess it’s simply because they’re the ones more dependent on their parents. As you get older, the contact regrettably becomes less and less - when you’re a little nipper, you’re joined at the ankle. Also, younger is cuter, isn’t it? I look like a dirty statue nowadays, but when I was young I was a sprightly little cherub with a mop of blonde hair - a real piece-a-pie, I was - nothing compared to the terrifying creature I am now.
But that’s just my opinion - some real people with real brains have done some research, and found out why this is the way it is. Research conducted by Brigham Young University (BYU)’s School of Family Life, in Utah, has found that the youngest siblings normally just assume they’re their parents’ favourite child, and this strengthens their relationship as a result. So they’re a bunch of Big-head Billies, thinking they’re the bee’s knees, and because of this, they actually are.
The study, published in Journal of Adolescence, looked at more than 300 families (each with two teenage offspring), then asked the children about their relationship with their parents and vice versa, and considered the amount of warmth and conflict between the two parties. It found that it was often the youngest kids that were the golden children. They also found that if the youngest doesn’t feel like they’re the favourite, then this weakens the parent-child relationship as a result.
The School of Family Life’s assistant professor Alex Jensen, controversially reckons that parents shouldn’t necessarily treat their kids equally (as a way of mediating favouritism), saying:
“When parents are more loving and they’re more supportive and consistent with all of the kids, the favouritism tends to not matter as much.
“Some parents feel like ‘I need to treat them the same’. What I would say is, ‘No you need to treat them fairly, but not equally’. If you focus on it being OK to treat them differently because they’re different people and have different needs, that’s OK.”
Interestingly, on the opposite end of the scale, whether older siblings feel favoured or not apparently makes no difference to their relationship with their parents. Instead, social comparison (one sibling comparing himself or herself to the other) is more likely to play into this.
Jensen says: “It’s not that first-borns don’t ever think about their siblings and themselves in reference to them. It’s just not as active of a part of their daily life.”
Essentially, they just presume they’re the parents’ favourites and that’s that. No need to dwell on it, sheesh.
Similar research earlier this year also found that the young’uns reckoned they were the funniest, which I can’t necessarily agree with. I just assume that everyone thinks they’re the funniest, all the time, no matter the age. Have you ever met ‘a dad’? No matter their point in life, they are the funniest, regardless of whether you agree or not.