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Is having a favourite child really a bad thing?
Although it may be uncomfortable to admit, many parents play favourites among their children. Is that 'bad' parenting?
Joanna knew she had a favourite child from the moment her second son was born. The Kent, UK-based mum says she loves both of her children, but her youngest child just “gets” her in a way that her first-born doesn’t.
When Joanna’s first baby was delivered, he was rushed away from her due to a health concern, and she couldn’t see him for 24 hours. Missing this valuable bonding period was, she believes, the start of a long-lasting preference for her second son, whom she was able to spend time with immediately after he was born.
“To sum our relationships up: I have to make an appointment to speak to my eldest,” says Joanna, whose full name is being withheld to protect her children. “With my youngest, I could call him at 0230 and he’d drive miles to meet me. My youngest is the nicest guy on the planet. He’s caring, generous, courteous and friendly. He’s the kind of person who would help anyone out.”
Though she battled her feelings for years, Joanna says now she’s in a place of acceptance. “I could write a book on why I love one more than the other,” she says. “It’s been hard, but I haven’t got any guilt.”
Unlike Joanna, most parents’ favouritism is subtle and goes undiscussed. Having a favourite child might be the greatest taboo of parenthood, yet research shows that the majority of parents do indeed have a favourite.
With plenty of evidence to suggest that being the least-favoured child can fundamentally shape the personality and lead to intense sibling rivalries, it’s no wonder that parents might worry about letting their preferences slip. Yet research also shows that most kids can’t tell who their parents’ favourite child really is. The real issue, then, is how parents manage their children’s perception of favouritism.
“Not every parent has a favourite child, but many do,” says Jessica Griffin, an associate professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, US. “Data suggests that mothers, in particular, show favouritism to children who have similar values to them and that engage more with family, over qualities such as being highly ambitious or career driven.”
Regardless of the reason, some research shows many parents almost certainly do have favourites – whether they admit to it or not. In one study, up to 74% of mothers and 70% of fathers in the UK have been shown to exhibit preferential treatment towards one child.
Yet for most, the topic remains off-limits. In other research, when parents were surveyed, just 10% admitted to having a favourite child, suggesting that for most mothers and fathers, feelings of favouritism remain a tightly held family secret.
When parents do admit to having a preferred child, research suggests birth order plays an important part in who they favour. According to the same YouGov survey, parents who admitted having a favourite child showed an overwhelming preference towards the baby of the family, with 62% of parents who have two children opting for their youngest. Forty-three percent of parents with three or more children prefer their last-born, with a third selecting a middle child and just 19% leaning towards their eldest.
Dr Vijayeti Sinh is a clinical psychologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She says that a favouritism towards a youngest child is often to do with the social and emotional skills associated with birth order – as parents gain more practice in child-rearing, they have a better idea of how they want to shape their offspring’s childhood, and what attributes are most important to pass on.
“Parents tend to favour a child that is most like them, reminds them of themselves, or represents what they view as a success of parenting,” she says. “Younger children are most likely to have been raised by a parent who, over time and experience, is more confident and skilled in their child-raising.”
Though parents do often have a favourite, many are racked with guilt, knowing that showing a preference will have a long-lasting impact on their child’s sense of self-worth. The concern is not entirely unfounded.
“Children who grow up in families where they feel that they are treated unfairly may experience a deep sense of unworthiness,” says Sinh. “They might feel that they are unlovable in some way, or do not possess the special traits and characteristics needed to be loved by others. Feeling like the black sheep of the family can lead to fears and insecurities – children might become self-protective and try to be overly nice and agreeable around others.”
But for most parents, their worries are misplaced. Evidence suggests that unless preferential treatment is very extreme, most children are not impacted by being the least favourite child.
“Sometimes parents are blatantly obvious in their demonstration of love and affection,” says Sinh. “But when parents are mindful and thoughtful and do their best to ensure that any feelings of closeness or likeability factor aren’t plain and clear, then children don’t feel unworthy of their parents’ love and support.”
In fact, in most cases children might not even know that their parents prefer their sibling in the first place. In one study, when people who stated that their parents had a favourite child were probed, a staggering four out of five claimed that their sibling was favoured over them – a seemingly improbable statistic. Other studies have shown that children incorrectly identify who the favourite child is more than 60% of the time.
Of course, it’s possible that parents are doing a much better job of disguising their preferences than you would expect. Or – as Griffin suggests – we’re simply very bad at guessing who the favourite child really is.
“Although you might think that children instinctively know whether their parent has a favourite child and who that child is, the data is surprising,” she says. “Children might assume that the first-born or the ‘baby’ of the family is the favourite, or the child who is an overachiever in the family and causes less parenting stress. Whereas in actuality, the parent might have different and varied reasons for the favouritism – such as favouring the child who struggles the most, or the child that is most similar to them.”
Griffin argues that it’s perfectly OK – and even expected – for parents to have favourites, and that parents shouldn’t feel guilty if they find themselves feeling closer to one child over another. She says that although children who believe they are the least-favoured child tend to have lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression, in the majority of cases, children have no idea which sibling their parent or parents prefer.
Perhaps who the favourite child really is isn’t so important after all.
No less love
Griffin has found that the favourite-child conundrum has shown up in both her professional and personal lives: her three children constantly joke about who the ‘favourite’ child must be.
Although she recommends parents or children who find that favouritism is affecting their relationships or mental health should speak to a paediatrician or mental health provider, she believes most imbalances can be addressed with simple tactics that demonstrate care and attention.
Griffin says that although parents might not readily admit to favouritism, they certainly won’t be alone if they find themselves feeling closer to one child over another. Most mothers and fathers have favourites – and that’s OK.
“There are going to be days when we prefer to be around one child over another, for a number of different reasons,” she says. “The important thing to remember is that having a favourite child does not mean that you love your other children less.”
Thousands cross Polish border fleeing Russia******
It is a freezing cold night in Medyka, a south-eastern Polish town on the border with Ukraine. There, traumatized Ukrainian refugees shiver as they queue to cross the border into Poland.
Having fled their homes to escape the Russia-Ukraine conflict, They hope to find shelter and safety elsewhere.
On the first day of Russia's military operation, Poland's border guard said 29,000 people came to Poland. This figure has now swelled to more than 100,000.
Some are lucky. Dozens of cars and small buses wait in the parking lot at the border, to pick up Ukrainian friends and relatives. Others, however, are less fortunate: they pace around looking flustered, repeatedly asking for information.
Even those who have a car don't know how far they will get. More than half of the gas stations along the road from Medyka to Przemysl, 10 km away, have sold their last drop of petrol for the day.
Many of the refugees do not want to deal with journalists' cameras and microphones immediately after setting foot on Polish territory. However, Julia, who had just reunited with her husband, is willing to talk to Xinhua.
Holding her one-year-old son with one arm, the 26-year-old is picking up convenience food from volunteers. Meanwhile, her older son plunges his head into a box full of plush toys, donated by local people.
Julia's family lives in a small town in western Ukraine, while her husband works at a Skoda car factory in Prague, Czech Republic. After the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, she decided to go to her husband's place.
Her father and brother drove her to the border area. They heard explosions along the way. She walked the last 20 km with her two sons to Poland, and was finally reunited with her husband who came to pick her up.
"The journey was difficult and dangerous, but now we are finally safe!" said Julia, who does not want to give her full name.
"What will happen in the future? I don't know."
Like Julia, Yryna also crossed the border on Saturday. She got up at 4 am, planning to go to her cousin's home with her three children.
Yryna left almost everything at her home in Truskavet, a city in Ukraine's Lviv Oblast near the border. Everyone warned her to leave as soon as she could.
"It's not about my life, but I have three kids," she said, before bursting into tears.
Her elder daughter Anna seems less worried, showing Xinhua her cat and rabbit, who are traveling with her. However, Anna said she wants to go home as her friends are there.
Terebetskyy Volodumur, a 50-year-old Ukrainian businessman, is set to cross the border to his home in Kiev – while most are traveling in the opposite direction.
He explains that he drove to Italy on a business trip on Tuesday, and heard many Ukrainians were fleeing their homes.
"It was fine when I left, but suddenly there was a war. I have three children at home, and I want to go back and stay with the children," he said.
Egypt beat Algeria to win All Africa mixed team champion******
KAMPALA, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Egypt won the 2021 All Africa Badminton mixed team championship after beating Algeria 3-1 in the final here on Sunday.
The Algerian team started well after Koceila Mammeri and Tanina Violette Mammeri beat Egypt's Ahmed Salah and Jana Ashraf 21-15, 21-9 in the mixed doubles.
But Egypt's Doha Hany made it 1-1 by beating Halla Bouksani 21-17, 21-18 in the women's singles.
Egypt's Adham Hatem Elgamal later fought back strongly to defeat Mohamed Abderrrahime Belarbi 21-17, 17-21, 21-19 to win the men's singles in 55 minutes.
Nour Ahmed Youssri and Doha Hany nailed the win for Egypt as they defeated Algeria's Mounib Celia and Tanina Violette 22-20, 21-13 in the women's doubles.
"We are very happy that we battled hard as a team to lift the title," Elgamal told Xinhua.
The mixed team event started with nine teams, and saw Egypt defeat Uganda 3-0 in the semifinals, while Algeria stopped South Africa 3-2.
The closing ceremony was graced by the President of Badminton Confederation Africa, Michel Bau, and Chairperson of the Uganda Badminton Association, Annet Nakamya.
On October 26 starts the individual championship, a part of the All Africa Championships which are held every year and include a Team Championship (Mixed or Men & Women) and an Individual Championship. Enditem