Parents Shouldn't Play Favorites

Preferential treatment of certain children has negative effect on all kids, study says

FRIDAY, Sept. 17, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Preferential parental treatment of particular children has a negative effect on all the children in the home, a new study contends.

The researchers suggest this may be because all the children regard their parents' behavior as unfair and unpredictable. That can create resentment in disfavored siblings and uncertainty in favored siblings. It can also undermine sibling relationships, leading to higher levels of anger and aggressiveness.

The findings, reported in the current issue of Child Development, indicate that parents need to be fair in dealing with their children. Fair treatment is not the same as identical treatment. Special circumstances or needs of individual children require different treatment. Children accept that when they understand the reasons for this kind of behavior by parents, the researchers noted.

For their study, the Canadian researchers examined data about 5,488 families from two Canadian studies and one U.S. study. All the families had at least two children between the ages of 4 and 16.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has advice on effective parenting.

SOURCE: Society for Research in Child Development, news release, Sept. 17, 2004
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