If you have a sibling, chances are that as a kid you pestered your mom with the question, “Which one of us do you love most?” In response, I’d wager that she smiled placidly and answered with some variation of “Don’t be silly, I love you all equally.” Then you, reluctantly accepting this reply, bebopped away to continue your little kid life.
However, not so fast, younger you- a study from researchers at Purdue University concludes that 75% of older mothers have a favorite child that they’d prefer to have as a caregiver in their dotage. Moreover, the mothers who were cared for by their second-choice child showed increased signs of depression, even more so than those who didn’t have a caregiver at all.
Even more unsettling are the results of a survey conducted by the researchers: 600 mothers were queried and 90% admitted to having one child who they’d rather have around; in other words, to having a favorite. It seems that this partiality arises when one child clearly shares the parents’ values, perhaps allowing the parents to see themselves mirrored in their offspring.
Depressingly (or not, depending on your interpretation), children are only able to identify the favorite 50% of the time. The rest of the time, they’re left in the dark, perpetually curious about their rank in the family.
Naturally, many mothers vehemently deny any favoritism on their part. Chris Jordan, writing on Alphamom.com, declares “I mean it. I don’t prefer one of my children over another. They are all different.” The Purdue researchers politely call these kinds of statements bunk, saying “chances are she’s been socially conditioned to deny having a favorite, even though she does.” A variety of sources chime in with a more practical response: “Just don’t admit it!”
So if you’re an only child, you dodged the bullet. And if you’re not, be aware that the next time your mother declares that she certainly doesn’t have a favorite, she’s probably, shall we say, engaging in a little prevarication.
Don’t feel too bad, though- you never know. The favorite could be you.