A quarter of parents and nearly half of grandparents say they have a favourite child or grandchild

children wearing wellies

If your biggest parenting secret is that you've got a favourite child, then you're not alone. A new Mumsnet survey has revealed that parents tend to favour their youngest child, while grandparents have a soft spot for their eldest grandchild.

A new survey by Mumsnet and Gransnet gets to the heart of one of the most contentious family issues: favouritism. Nearly a quarter (23%) of Mumsnet users with more than one child admitted that they have a favourite, as did 42% of Gransnet users with more than one grandchild.

In a dynamic that many will recognise, parents tend to favour the baby of the family, while more grandparents fall head over heels for their first grandchild. More than half (56%) of parents with a favourite say it’s their youngest child (26% say it’s their oldest). Of those grandparents who admit to having a favourite, 39% say it’s the eldest who is the apple of their eye.

Parents are won over by children being ‘easy’, with 61% saying their favourite’s siblings are more ‘tricky or demanding’. Grandparents are less likely to prize this quality, with less than half (41%) saying their favourite is ‘the easy one’.

Other findings include:

  • one-third of grandparents with a favourite say that the grandchild in question reminds them of their own son or daughter at a similar age;
  • 41% of parents with a favourite say the child reminds them of themselves (with just 14% saying the child reminds them of their spouse);
  • 74% of parents and 67% of grandparents with a favourite say the child is unstintingly loving and affectionate;
  • 51% of parents and 58% of grandparents with a favourite say that the child makes them laugh more than their other children or grandchildren;
  • 23% of Mumsnet users who admitted to having a favourite say that the child in question is their only son, while 15% say it’s their only daughter; but
  • of grandparents with a favourite, 16% say it’s their only granddaughter and 10% say it’s their only grandson.

However, around half of Mumsnet and Gransnet users agree that having a favourite is ‘awful’ (55% of Mumsnet users and 50% of Gransnet users). Most think it’s damaging for other siblings (78% of Mumsnet users and 56% of Gransnet users), and many think it’s damaging for the favourite themselves (45% of Mumsnet users and 34% of Gransnet users). Of Mumsnet users who said they have a favourite child, 13% say their other children definitely or probably know which of their siblings is the favourite. When it comes to Gransnet users with a favourite grandchild, 10% of them say their favourite’s siblings are aware of the situation.

Half (51%) of Gransnet users with a favourite grandchild, and a third (32%) of Mumsnet users with a favourite child, say they aren’t ashamed of the fact. Perhaps it’s lucky, then, that favouritism can be fickle: 29% of Mumsnet users who have a favourite and 15% of Gransnet users who have a favourite say that their preference changes over time.

Mumsnet and Gransnet founder Justine Roberts said: “Favouritism is one of the last taboos and can provoke a lot of guilt, so it’s important to say that feeling a greater affinity for a particular child – often, whichever one is willing to put their shoes on – is fairly common, and doesn’t have to be disastrous. Toxic favouritism, where siblings become aware of being treated unfairly over the long term, is a whole other ball game. The distilled Mumsnet wisdom on this issue is that lots of parents like their children differently: the crucial thing is to love them all wholly.”

Read the full data here.