Streams

The Favorite Child

Monday, January 25, 2010

Clinical psychologist Ellen Weber Libby delves into the "favorite child complex," which can lead to great advantages as well as emotional handicaps. In The Favorite Child, she explores why parents, consciously or not, choose a favorite child, and looks at the long-term effects of being the favorite son or daughter.

Guests:

Ellen Weber Libby
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Comments [14]

Eileen Davis from croto-on-hudson, new york

I have 2 daughters. My youngest child was once insisting that I must have a favorite. I asked her if she had a favorite parent...she laughed and said that was silly. I agreed.

Mar. 31 2010 04:48 AM
w from Manhattan

I'm the middle child, and favored in the sense that I'm considered the most helpless. My older sister is accomplished and self-sufficient; my younger brother is the favored male of the house---and yet any reference to favoritism is mitigated by all three siblings making a joke out of it. Yes, there have been family blow-ups regarding favoritism in the past, but I've always felt that as long as I showed my love and devotion to everybody, and as long as we can kid one another about favoritism or sibling rivalry, we would be fine. We don't have the closest dynamic (I would say that the true families for each member of my family are our friends), but we do manage to laugh with one another. I'm grateful for that.

Jan. 25 2010 01:27 PM
Joel Hubbard from Long Island

F.S.S. or "favorite son sydrone" is a joke my two teenagers came up with to deal with deep seeded feelings of not being able to kill each other in the nest as babies. nobuddy ever said it would be easy.

Jan. 25 2010 12:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I can understand parents' thinking *they* don't have a favorite child, but actually saying favoritism doesn't even happen among human parents, only in animals? That's a whole 'nother level of denial. But I'm glad (& a little surprised) that caller's father was able to recognize the favoritism in his own family when it was pointed out.

Jan. 25 2010 12:32 PM
Katharine Mukherji from Brooklyn, NY

As one of three children, I never felt that my parents had a favorite child. And I know that my sibs never thought so, either. And as mother of two, I know that I do not have a favorite child. This language is almost like a foreign concept. I cannot imagine having been or had a favorite child.

Jan. 25 2010 12:31 PM
Anne from Astoria

I have always felt uncomfortable because I am the favorite a lot of the time and I am really close to my sister.

I have always felt guity because I feel like its unfair and make her feel bad.

Do you have any advice?

Jan. 25 2010 12:28 PM
Linda Weber from Berkeley Heights, NJ

Wow...so off base and trite that I had to turn it off and listen to my iPod.

Jan. 25 2010 12:25 PM
Marielle from Brooklyn

I was my mother's favorite and my sister was my father's favorite. The chaos this caused (and still causes) was immense. My two brothers generally stayed out of it. I think they were much better off.

Jan. 25 2010 12:23 PM
Daphna from The Upper West Side

I think that families can tolerate favorites if a principle of fairness is in effect. Parents may have feelings of favor toward one of their children, but if they are meticulous about dividing the resources--money, time, health care, education, attention--equally among the children, many feelings of resentment can be ameliorated.

Jan. 25 2010 12:22 PM
w from ny

I am the third of 4 children. Not the firstborn, not the firstborn male and not the baby(who is a girl). My parents always were and still are much more involved in the lives of my siblings than they are in mine. At this point, I am completely emotionally detached from them and they don't understand why. If I told them how I felt, it would really hurt them so I just let it go as it would not help me any. Parents need to be really mindful of even appearing to favor certain children. Trust me, it really screws up the ones who feel shortchanged.

Jan. 25 2010 12:18 PM
sasha Olivebranch from New York

To this day my mother denies that my older brother was her favorite child. Yesterday something came up that she did years ago when we were kids. She told me I don't forget anything. As a small child I resented her favoritism, but I grew to accept it a long time ago even though she has never admitted it. My brother was her first child and a boy so I think its natural she would prefer him.

Jan. 25 2010 12:17 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

My ex-wife (and HER mother!) so blatantly favored our older son over our younger one and I pointed it out repeatedly to her without any change in her behavior.

The result of that was a terrible manifestation of it in the dynamic between the boys: A younger boy who acted out constantly with passive-aggressive behavior to get attention & teased his older brother repeatedly and the older one being angry and contemptuous of his younger sibling.

A terrible legacy to leave children.

Jan. 25 2010 12:15 PM
Connie from NJ

I have 4 siblings, and I have always said that my parents never showed any favoritism. They were almost too fair. But I am not absolutely sure that my siblings would agree with me.

Jan. 25 2010 12:12 PM
carolita from manhattan

It's more complicated than you make it out to be. I was the least liked child when it came to my mother because I became bitter with her histrionics and treated her scornfully from an early age, while my middle brother catered to her. She would wonder aloud why I couldn't be nice, like my brother. On the other hand, my brother did badly in school, while I did excellently. So he'd be compared unfavorably to me, academically. Our youngest brother was definitely the funniest of us all, and being the youngest, was perceived as getting away with everything the two older ones did not. In the end, we ALL had the impression that one of our siblings was favored over one of us. I think it's just a natural part of sharing parents.

Jan. 25 2010 12:12 PM

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