Child Trends: Do parents play favorites?

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If you’re a parent, odds are you’ve heard it before.

When one of your kids gets something from you, whether it be money or items, your other child immediately wants to know “Where’s Mine?”. This prompts the question: As parents, do we always treat our kids equally?

Rutgers University Marketing Professor Kristina Durante and her colleagues tested that question.

“We were having parents enter a lottery to win a treasury bond worth $25. And they had to tell us with a name which of their children they would give the treasury bond to.” Said Durante.

The parents could only enter once and had to choose between their girl or their boy for the potential winnings. Moms chose daughters. Dads chose their sons.

“It suggests that we do play favorites, even if we don’t think that we do.” Said Durante.

In a follow-up study, researchers had parents with kids of both genders enter a lottery for a backpack with school supplies. Again, moms chose girls 76% of the time. Dads chose sons 87%.

Durante says parents should know this spending bias exists and ensure all their kids have equal opportunities for enriching activities.

“Making sure we’re checking twice about equal access that both our children have.”

Researchers say parents may be favoring a child of their own gender simply because they identify more with them. Durante also recommends parents track spending on each of their kids, because that will help parents have a clear picture of where their money is going.

Jack Keenan

Jack Keenan

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