Research shows most parents have a favourite child, and it’s usually the eldest

Do you have a favourite child? The taboo question often receives a firm answer: no. But research suggests that most parents do have a favourite child, and it’s probably the eldest.

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, 74 percent of mums and 70 percent of dads confessed to liking one child more than another.

While the parents did not specify which child was their favourite, when the siblings were interviewed themselves, results showed younger brothers and sisters often sensed a bias towards the first-born.

The younger children said this knocked their self-esteem.

The study asked pairs of teenage siblings no more than four years apart how they felt their parents treated them.

Sociologists found that simply being the first to complete a task made the eldest child more confident and assertive.

They also found that the first-born felt their accomplishments meant more to their parents – who were most likely experiencing exam or sporting success with a child for the first time.

A total of 384 families were studied, with all participants living in a two-parent, two-child family, where the children were born within four years of each other.

Professor Katherine Conger, who led the study, said she was surprised by the results, as she had assumed older siblings would be more likely to feel like they were being treated unfairly.

“Our working hypothesis was that older, earlier born children would be more affected by perceptions of differential treatment due to their status as older child in the family,” she said.

The research was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.