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Surprising Study Results Reveal Parents Do Play Favorites

Most parents adamantly insist that they love all of their children equally—no favorites. And while that may certainly be true, it is also likely that they are not treating all of their kids equally. According to a recent study, parents of multiple children unintentionally tend to favor one child over another.

Like Father Like Son

Researchers at Rutgers University asked 250 adults (not all were parents) if they were given a $50 gift card to give to either a hypothetical son or hypothetical daughter who they would they give it to. More than 60 percent of the males chose their hypothetical son and more than 70 percent of the females chose their hypothetical daughter. Next, the researchers invited 52 parents to compete to win a gift for their children. The participants had to choose whether they would give the gift to their sons or daughters. More than 75 percent of mothers chose their daughters and more than 85 percent of fathers chose their sons.

The researchers then asked 470 people (parents and non-parents) about their spending habits involving their (real or hypothetical) kids. As you may expect, most men admitted spending more on their sons and most women admitted spending more on their daughters—because they had more in common with their same-sex offspring. Finally, the researchers asked more than 400 parents (about half of whom were American and about half of whom were Indian) whether they would give a $25 U.S. Treasury bond to one of their sons or one of their daughters. Overwhelmingly, respondents from both countries chose a same-sex child.

Unintended Consequences

On the surface, one might conclude that this subconscious bias would “even out” in two-parent heterosexual families. However, that’s not necessarily the case if one parent is the primary breadwinner or one parent does most of the shopping and/or handles the finances. In single- or same-sex parent families, the ramifications of the study could be even more pronounced it seems.

The More You Know …

You probably do not intentionally lavish resources on your same-sex offspring at the expense of their sibling, but now that you’re aware of the apparent subconscious inclination to do just that, you can make a concerted effort to pay more attention to how you dole out money, gifts, snacks, quality time, praise, and even discipline. Maybe young kids who keep track of how much or how many gifts they get compared to how much or how many gifts their brothers and sisters get are onto something!

While it may seem petty, time-consuming, and even maddening at times, maybe it does make sense to keep count and keep track—especially when it comes to how you allocate financial resources?

Do you have kids of both sexes? Do you find the results of the Rutgers study surprising? Have any of your children ever accused you (or confronted you with evidence) of favoring one child over another? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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