Parents who claim they love all their children equally are lying, a new book has sensationally claimed.
Author and father of two Jeffrey Kluger's new book The Sibling Effect: What Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us
claims that all parents have a favourite child, no matter how much they deny it.
"Ninety-five percent of parents in the world have a favourite child — and the other five per cent are lying," Kluger says.
Kluger's claims are likely to incite angry denial from parents worldwide, but recent research suggests he's closer to the truth than most people care to admit.
A recent University of California three-year study of 384 sibling pairs and their parents found that 70 percent of fathers and 65 percent of mothers exhibited a clear preference for one child.
Study leaders think the real numbers could be much higher as the study participants knew they were being watched and probably modified their behaviour accordingly.
Another study which asked siblings who they thought their parents favoured found that mothers were more likely to prefer their first-born son, while fathers doted on their youngest daughters.
The research also found that parents were prone to prefer the child that shared their interests or personality traits — for example, fathers are likely to lavish sporty kids with affection, while the arty mother might prefer her quiet and sensitive child.
While most parents will find it difficult to admit they have a favourite, parenting expert Naomi Richards says mums and dads need to stop lying to themselves.
Once you realise that you do favour one child, you can change your behaviour to ensure your other children don't suffer.
"Try to spend equal amounts of time with all of them," says Richards, ‘doing something with them that they enjoy. Rather than trying to get the fidgety one to enjoy the cinema, take him kite-flying with a friend. Don't get the bookish one to take up dancing or roller-skating — go to a museum.
"Accentuating each child's positives will really help to balance your family dynamic. It just takes practice."