While applying favouritism with children can also occur in functional families, it is often more prevalent in and to further extremes in dysfunctional families.
Favoritism has negative effects on both the favored child and the unfavoured ones that have long-lasting effects throughout life.
For example, while the favored child certainly basks in the sunset as a child, and perhaps throughout life, the downside for that child might very well suffer with intimate relationships as they find no one can love them to the degree that their parents did.
Similarly, the favored child may suffer from depression because they have spent much of their lives trying to perpetuate the parental favour so much that they have failed to develop as an individual.
However, don’t feel too sorry for the favored child as they invariably do better in life than the unfavoured child or even neglected child.
It is only natural to resent favoritism and it breeds rampantly.
Unfavoured children invariably suffer from self-esteem issues or even a chronic need to feel special.
It almost goes without saying that the sibling relationships are strained between the favored and the unfavoured.
When they are young children have to live together under the same household. However once grown, the sibling relationship can take on one of estrangement, where the parties go many years without talking.
Some depression studies have shown that siblings who experienced consistently favoured or rejected relationships were more likely to exhibit depression in middle-age.
Favoritism is certainly one of those things that qualify as ” perception is everything” -the parents may argue till they are blue in the face that they have treated their children equally. But if the perception of the child or children is to the contrary, then the perceived unequal treatment has damaging effects for all of the siblings.
I have heard clients tell me that since childhood their brother (sister) could do no wrong – the difficulty is that this tendency never seems to go away, and in fact may get stronger over the decades .
The worse scenario of the favored child is probably the one who never moves out of home and is left the home by his or her parents upon their passing all to the extreme rage of his or her siblings.
The favored child will talk about “sacrifice” in having stayed at home to take care of parents and be good company while the siblings simply see it as a freeloader situation of someone who never grew up .
Advice – It’s not your fault and move on.