One in 10 parents admit having a favourite child

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
March 02, 2020, 11:14 AM UTC

Over a third of people also say that their parents had favourites – and most insist it wasn’t them

Want to fight over something else than Brexit at your next family gathering? Our latest poll shows 10% of parents admit to preferring one of their children over the others – and it’s usually the youngest.

If you suspect your parents belong to the 10%, their preferences are likely to be determined by the order in which you and your siblings were born.

Parents with two children who admit to having a favourite overwhelmingly (62%) prefer the youngest. Only 30% say they prefer the eldest. This pattern is similar to parents with three or more children who favour one above the others. Many (43%) prefer the youngest, a third (34%) a middle child and fewer (19%) the eldest.

Having a favourite is controversial. While 10% of parents admit to it, the real figure could be higher, with 34% of people claiming it characterised their childhood. Of those, four out of five (78%) insist a sibling was the favourite, not themselves.

Half say their parents preferred the youngest sibling, just over a quarter (27%) the eldest and a fifth (22%) the middle child. This is similar to what parents with a preference disclosed.

Parents who say they have a preference seem unfussed by gender, with the split being roughly equal between boys and girls. But while only 36% of men who believe their parents had a favourite say it was a sister, 46% of women think it was a brother. Men are also more prone to think they were the favourite at 23% compared to 17% of women.

If you think this may create tension around the dinner table, you’re absolutely right. Over a third of people who believe their parents had a favourite say it has permanently damaged family ties. This figure is higher for women and peaks among people aged between 35 and 44.  

See the full results here