Your Parents May Be Lying When They Say They Don't Have A Favorite

Sucks to be a middle child.

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockNov 29 2022, 16:17 UTC
A young child opens a big stack of presents, while an older child watches in sadness.

If one of you keeps getting massive stacks of presents, that might be a clue. Image credit: EvgeniiAnd/

A number of surveys, including one from prominent research and data analytics firm YouGov, suggest that your parents may be lying to you when they say they don't have a favorite child.

Having a favorite child is a pretty thorny subject, which I'd imagine is made even worse if it isn't you. One Mumsnet survey found that more than half of respondents described having a favorite child as absolutely "awful", and yet that same survey found that nearly a quarter of parents did in fact have a favorite child. 


According to that survey, with a heavy caveat that it was of Mumsnet users and not the population in general, more than half of the parents with a favorite child said they preferred the youngest, while just 26 percent said that they preferred the eldest. Sixty-one percent of those who favored the younger child said that they found the other sibling(s) more "tricky and demanding".

While the number of people willing to say they have a favorite child may seem high, it could be that Mumsnet users are more open about having a favorite child. Equally, if you are worried this means that you, the eldest, are not a favorite child, it should be noted that there could be a number of problems with the way the survey was designed.

Parents could turn to Mumsnet, for instance, because they have a particularly "tricky or demanding" child, skewing the results somewhat. It could also be that Mumsnet users turn to the site when one child (the oldest) gets to a particularly tricky phase, causing them to favor the younger one who hasn't yet hit the terrible twos, naughty nines, terrible teens and so on until adulthood.

However, the findings of the Mumsnet survey are roughly in line with data collected by YouGov in 2020.


The YouGov poll found a smaller percentage of people (10 percent) willing to admit they have a favorite in a survey.

"While 10 percent of parents admit to it, the real figure could be higher," YouGov said in a press release, "with 34 percent of people claiming it characterised their childhood".

However, the survey used a larger sample size than Mumsnet. With over 6,200 respondents, they were able to break down the data on that 10 percent who admitted to having a favorite. Bad news again, older siblings, because this survey found that parents still preferred the youngest.

Parents with two children favored the youngest 62 percent to 30 percent (the rest being people who would prefer not to say). Parents with three or more children favored the youngest (43 percent), with "one of the middle children" at 34 percent, and the eldest on 19 percent.


The survey also looked at whether people believed themselves to be the favorite child, and whether their own parents had favorites at all. While the survey found that parents did not appear to choose their favorite child based on gender, there were differences in how the genders perceived their own parents' preferences.

"While only 36 percent of men who believe their parents had a favourite say it was a sister, 46 percent of women think it was a brother," YouGov wrote in their summary.  "Men are also more prone to think they were the favourite at 23 percent compared to 17 percent of women."

  • tag
  • parenting,

  • family,

  • childhood,

  • Parent-child relationship,

  • parenthood