Effects of Parental Favoritism

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The effects of long-term parental favoritism will clearly affect the way in which the favored and non-favored child perceive themselves. The more extreme the difference in treatment, all else being equal, the more extreme 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 own experience) the step-mother will favor her own 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 own purposes, which, it has to be said, is not entirely untypical. Her own son she viewed as a kind of mini-messiah – a view, unhelpfully for him, he can’t have failed to have introjected), whilst I was, naturally,  and, no doubt, befittingly, the spawn of the devil. Indeed, I spent much of my childhood worrying I was destined to be eternally tortured in hell.

parental favoritism

In my own 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, but 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 myself am still trying to shake off (unsuccessfully, I might add, which the perceptive reader of this blog is overwhelmingly likely to have realized!)


S/he will tend to grow up with very high self-esteem and high levels of self- belief (irrespective, to a large degree. of actual talents and abilities). Indeed, another very interesting study discovered that every President since Roosevelt had been the favoured child.


S/he has a greater probability of developing depression in later life and can develop ill-will towards the favored sibling/step-sibling.

BUT IT’S NOT NECESSARILY ALL BAD FOR THE UNFAVORED CHILD!!  The reason for this is that whilst the favored child may well go through life unconsciously trying to please the parent who favored 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 own furrow.


emotional abuse

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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