My 7-year-old read the cover of our copy of Time magazine to me: "Why Mom Liked You Best*. The Science of Favoritism (*of course she would never admit it)."
The cover features three blonde young children, a boy and two girls. Just like our family. Favorite girl has a big piece of cake with an even bigger smile on her face, while non-favored younger children have small pieces and rather grumpy faces.
Of course it was the cake in the picture that interested my kids the most. Each of them has complained at one stage or another than so-and-so gets more, or doesn't get reprimanded like they do or gets better "stuff" in general.
The good thing is that each one has complained about the other, evidence that we have equally failed each child!
The Time magazine article insists that all parents really do have a favorite, even if it's subconscious. It's the natural order of things, just like in the animal kingdom.
And just like in the animal kingdom, it seems that the oldest child tends to be the favored one. Catherine Conger of the University of California, Davis concluded in her well-known study about favoritism that 65 percent of moms and 70 percent of dads do outwardly show favoritism to one child and it's usually the oldest.
Older children often grow up to be the tallest and/or strongest of the kids, with higher IQs (by about three points). It's believed that these numbers are actually low due to parents' awareness of being watched by researchers as they interact with their children during studies on favoritism.
In animal studies, mothers prefer larger eggs, larger babies and babies born first (since they tend to be larger). They will throw small eggs or the runt of a litter out of the nest/family home in order to focus on the healthier, older children since younger ones are considered "spares, not heirs".
Another reason researchers believe the oldest is often favored may involve the care, attention and expense invested in the first child. Parents focus on the eldest to make sure their investment pays off.
Younger siblings get the hand-me-downs and their milestones aren't as celebrated -- it's all been done before.