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quality posts: 17 Private Messages WootBot


Dispelling misinformation is tough when you’re up against the biggest liars of all: Mom and Dad. In his new book Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids, Ken Jennings takes on generations of dubious parental wisdom. And this month on Woot, Ken will debunk four bonus parenting myths not found in his book, proving that Mother and Father don’t always know best.

Parental Myth #3: We Love You All Exactly the Same!

This isn’t necessarily a cover-up of Santa Claus proportions. Many parents who claim not to have a favorite child probably sincerely believe that this is true—but they don’t always act accordingly. “I like to say that 99 percent of all parents do have a favorite child, and the other 1 percent are lying through their teeth,” Time science writer Jeffrey Kluger told the Washington Post in 2011, hyping his book The Sibling Effect.

The evidence bears Kluger out. The most-cited result is a 2005 study by Katherine Conger, a family studies professor at UC Davis. She visited three hundred families over three years and videotaped their interactions, and found that 70% of the fathers and 65% of the mothers she studied exhibited a detectable bias toward one child. Other sociologists agree: the preference might be a matter of compatibility, or gender, or behavior, or birth order (firstborns are often favorites, due to what Kluger calls the economic “rule of sunk costs,” but youngest children can be spoiled too) but whatever the cause, most parents have a favorite.

Children are keenly aware of this, Cornell sociologist Karl Pillemer told Time. He found that hundreds of the senior citizens in his study were still stung by childhood injustices now eighty years old. “For people who feel that there was great differential treatment in their family, it does have lasting effects.” LFS—Least Favored Status—can lead to anxiety, depression, and, according to one study, a three-point IQ gap. Even the preferred children can suffer when real-life doesn’t offer the same protective bubble of favoritism.

Psychologists say that eliminating favoritism is futile, so parents need to work on hiding it better. They need to learn to discipline kids without ever comparing them, and should make equal time for the individual interest of each. “We love you all exactly the same!” may be a lie, but it’s the kind of comforting lie that keeps families running smoothly.

Quick Quiz: In politics, a “favorite son” is a candidate with strong regional support. Who’s the only person in the last ninety years to win the U.S. Presidency without winning his state of residency?

Ken Jennings is the author of Because I Said So!, Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at or on Twitter as @KenJennings.

Photo by Flickr user avlxyz. Used under a Creative Commons License.


quality posts: 2 Private Messages afotycon



quality posts: 0 Private Messages kirkpro

Always love these articles, but what a strange thing to 'debunk'. I'm positive that some parents have a favorite child and do a poor job of covering up that fact.

We take a different approach. One of my favorite quotes about children is: "If you love your children equally, you will treat them differently." Our children are individuals and need to be treated that way. Don't show favorites, but don't try to treat them the same, either.


quality posts: 20 Private Messages matthew

We've uncovered a correlation, but did those scientists consider the possibility that maybe that three-point IQ gap is what COST the kid the top spot? Maybe if s/he had worked on some kind of compensatory talent, like sports. Or been funny.


quality posts: 4 Private Messages Mancho
matthew wrote:We've uncovered a correlation, but did those scientists consider the possibility that maybe that three-point IQ gap is what COST the kid the top spot? Maybe if s/he had worked on some kind of compensatory talent, like sports. Or been funny.

I like the way you think!


quality posts: 6 Private Messages istrebitjel

Here is a blogger mom who confessed to favoring one child over the other

Look at the comments. Or, rather don't! ;)


quality posts: 9 Private Messages whoiskenjennings

Guest Blogger

Wow, this was a tough one. Yup, it's Nixon. His home state in 1968 is usually said to be New York, not California, since he was living there and practicing law at the time.

This "myth" is a bit of a departure from our usual debunkings, since it varies from person to person. But since I was doing parental lies this month anyway, I couldn't resist once I saw the UC Davis study.


quality posts: 15 Private Messages SESteve

My parents liked me better but my sister grew up ok anyway.


quality posts: 149 Private Messages ckeilah

I hate you all equally. Now GET OUT! And bring me a bottle of wine from the cellar on your way. ;-)

Please do not increment my Quality Posts count. 69 is a good place to be. ;-)
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