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Favoritism: Emotions impact caregiver choice

Which one of YOUR children is your favorite?  (It’s OK, just whisper in my ear. I won’t tell.)

You may want to start pondering this. Researchers at Cornell University studying family favoritism are finding that the favored child –particularly the favored daughter – will likely land the star role of caregiver in your waning years.

As seniors feel they might be losing their autonomy, they will most likely to ask their favorite child to be in charge of their care. And often middle-aged children don’t know which person in the family that will be.

Research led by Karl Pillemmer, the Director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging (CITRA), finds that mothers in their post-retirement years were quite happy to name favorites.  The lucky child that mom liked best, according to research, is “the one the mother feels emotionally closest to and thinks is most similar, who shares her attitudes and values. And she is the one who has provided support and help for her mother in the past.”

Moms, in this case, chose daughters more often because they were “more like” them—not just in values, but in emotional similarity. Moms saw themselves more in their daughters, the research showed, than in their sons.

Pillemmer noted parents are not as likely to care, either, whether that the favored child is a busy parent themselves, overscheduled, or even employed. The research reflects that the decision is more likely to be an emotional one, rather than a pragmatic one.

The only factor that seemed to matter was location: kids who live too in geographically unsuitable places tended to be discounted.

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