These are the most typical questions that every parent encounters at least once in their life: “do i have a favorite child? The favorite child really exists or do I have something wrong? Am I doing a wrong to one of my children? “A wall of awareness against which to launch at very high speed and then avoid it at the last minute due to an unbearable sense of guilt, the impossibility of admitting that we are all human and yes, we can prefer one child to another. The idea that this happens scares us (rightly, ça va sans dire) because we would like to be just, fair, perfect with each of our creatures, but life teaches us that things don’t always go like in fairy tales. The preference for a child worries many parents, but the testimonies of how this has always happened abound in history.
Freud wrote to Thomas Mann in 1936: “Bonaparte was the second son of a large family and, in the Corsican tradition, the birthright is respected with sacred fear. Eliminating Joseph, his elder brother, to take his place was Napoleon’s sentiment. driving his existence that led him from one conquest to another. His own way of purifying hatred “. Preferences between siblings and consequences on family balance have influenced history, cinema and literature for centuries: from Grimm’s fairy tales and Perrault’s to Shakespeare’s plays, passing through Dostoevsky’s novels. In short, a really important issue to address – and burning to digest – to which we often react with a joke, diminishing its importance. The studies that reveal how the favorite child really exists and what the experts say about it.
Scientific studies on the favorite son
That there is a chosen and favorite son, even the researches say so. A study conducted by sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California published in 2006 on a sample of 768 parents reveals that 70% of mothers and 74% of fathers admit that they have a favorite child, but no one specifies which one – they thought of it. children to do it based on their perceptions. From their confession it emerged that theThe privileged was very often the firstborn, going to disavow the initial impressions of the researchers who would have bet instead on the second child as the smallest, therefore the most in need of attention and care. Another study by sociologist Bornstein’s team of experts looked at how 55 mothers initially interacted with their first children at the age of 20 months and then, after about three years, with their second children of the same age. The result is clear: the mother tends to play more with the firstborn.
Experts from both researches tried to explain the phenomenon, suggesting an important point of view: with the first child also being a mother is born, while with the second the role is already run in. Mothers can devote more time and effort to the firstborn because they have no other children to take care of, moreover, due to inexperience, they focus more attention on him in caring for him. Giving birth or adopting it is a strong first emotion that leaves its mark. With the second child, however, it is normal and right to feel calmer, more capable and the time to devote is less because, however older, the first will still need help and care. However sensible and intuitive, this point of view is not always generalizable: experts confirm that many details come into play that can change the cards on the table.
How does the preference for one child over another arise?
The first point to take into consideration, as well as every parent is a human being and as such not infallible and absolutely not perfect, is that children are not all the same: everyone has a character, a temperament, a way of being and seeing the world unique in their kind, not necessarily comparable to those of the other brothers. The type of attachment that is created between each child and a parent, therefore, cannot depend only on the characteristics of one or the other, but on a mix of details that can determine a more or less simple, lucky, intense bond. It is absolutely normal that the so-called “difficult children” – those who sleep less, are more problematic when it comes to eating, are hyperactive, exuberant, not very obedient and so on – are perceived as exasperating, more complicated to manage: this does not affect the love felt, but it is simply easier for these children to touch naked nerves or suck up more energy (physical and emotional).
What is certain is that parents tend to immediately feel more in tune with children of character and with a temperament more similar to his own. A study conducted by Drs Suitor and Gilligan tells us that mothers often prefer the adult child most similar to them in terms of values and beliefs, but other parents base their preference on the child’s physical, character and behavioral characteristics, opting for the one that is most similar to them. easily manageable. We cannot forget that very often parents pay more attention to a child because he has (or thinks he has) more real need for support and help. Parental narcissism also often comes into play that transform a particular child into an obsession, a form of retaliation, a means to achieve a goal that has never been achieved or to satisfy frustrated desires through him. In any case, family dynamics are not always immobile and identical and can change according to the age of the children or life events.
Because we can’t admit that we prefer a child
No panic: preferring a child to others does not mean that the latter are loved less. The treatment can be different according to the needs of each child, in some cases there are favoritism, but love is there and remains without a doubt. Having preferences – better to reiterate – is normal and confirmed by the scientific literature, but it is really difficult for parents to be able to admit it to themselves and their children. Explaining why this happens is simple: breaking the taboo could challenge the balance of the familyFurthermore, we are all victims of an implicit, restrictive and severe social rule: we must all pretend to love our children equally at all costs. The risk of not respecting the dogma is that of being immediately pointed out as bad parents, as reprehensible people.
For example, let’s think of all commonplaces about motherhood that resist undeterred: the pregnant mother is a saint in a state of grace, she must immediately have maternal instinct, she must go crazy from the happiness of carrying a baby and she must face the difficulties of childbirth and motherhood with a smile on her face so as not to look like a ungrateful degenerate. Yet we know that many women experience pregnancy with great difficulty, feel “devoured” and exhausted by the fetus, suffer from terrible post-partum depression and do not feel fulfilled in motherhood – yet it seems impossible to talk about this “dark side” because of rules morals, bigotry, religious prescriptions and so on. In short, the speech is valid in case of preference for a child: impossible to admit unless you are the victim of easy judgments. Finally, admitting one’s own preference means accepting to be at the origin of conflicts between brothers and sisters.
Accept what is normal, beyond any rigid dogma
How to accept that you have a favorite child and forgive yourself because of this? Reminding us that perfect balances exist only in fairy tales, that textbook families are seen only in TV series and that each of us looks for a mirror of himself in the other – even in his own children. We have unresolved preferences, weaknesses, issues and difficulties, but the best way to overcome all guilt is to take responsibility for your own imperfections by admitting them.