The effects of long-term parental favouritism will affect how the favoured and non-favoured child perceive themselves. The more extreme the difference in treatment, all else being equal, the more acute will be the effects on the respective children.
I will use the example of a step-family as I grew up in one. Very sadly, although there are step-families, of course, in which all children are treated equally, and the environment is happy and healthy, it can be the case that, again, for example (as it relates to my experience) the step-mother will favour her son over her step-son AND MAKE THIS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR.
To elaborate, if you’ll permit the small indulgence, a little more on my own case, my step-mother was, as far as I could make out, essentially a religious fundamentalist (you know -‘ gay people offend god’, speaking in ‘tongues’, that sort of thing) although, to be honest, her belief structure seemed deeply confused – a veritable pick and mix mishmash, perfectly tailored, in several respects, to her purposes, which, it has to be said, is not entirely untypical. Her son (now a New York Times best-selling author for writing a story about a divinely-inspired, ultra-marathon running dog; I won’t give my step-brother’s name – not to protect his identity but because I have no wish to boost his sales, should you develop an irresistible urge to purchase this super canine-inspired masterpiece) she viewed as a kind of mini-messiah – a view, unhelpfully for him, he can’t have failed to have introjected), while I was, naturally, and, no doubt, befittingly, the spawn of the devil. Indeed, I spent much of my childhood convinced I was destined to spend eternity being tortured in hell.
In my case, then, I would have needed to have been in a coma for seven years (although, to my step-mother’s enduring chagrin, this happy event never came to pass) not to have picked up on things. Still, even if the favouritism is much more subtle, it can be equally bad, especially if the step-parent is superficially pleasant and in denial about it, which can create a sort of tortured confusion in the child.
Of course, too, the unfavoured child may well (and this was certainly true in my own case)not want to tell anyone about it as often s/he will (ENTIRELY MISTAKENLY) believe that s/he deserves to be treated as the ‘inferior’ and, again, as certainly happened to me, grow up WITH A PROGRAMMED- IN INFERIORITY COMPLEX. something I am still trying to shake off (unsuccessfully, I might add, which the alert reader of this blog is overwhelmingly likely to have realized!)
EFFECTS ON FAVORED CHILD :
S/he will tend to grow up with very high self-esteem and high levels of self- belief (irrespective, in no small degree. of actual talents and abilities). Indeed, another fascinating study discovered that every President, since Roosevelt had been the favoured child.
EFFECTS ON UNFAVORED CHILD :
S/he has a higher probability of developing depression in later life and can build ill-will towards the favoured sibling/step-sibling.
BUT IT’S NOT NECESSARILY ALL BAD FOR THE UNFAVORED CHILD!! The reason for this is that while the favoured child may well go through life unconsciously trying to please the parent who favoured him/her, and, if I may be permitted to coin a phrase – PERPETUALLY DANCE TO THE PARENT’S TUNE, the unfavoured child is liberated from such expectations and is free to live an altogether MORE AUTHENTIC LIFE, and plough, as it were his/her furrow.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).