Child Favoritism in South Asian Families

I can not speak on behalf of everyone but I think I surely can express my thoughts based on my understandings and experiences. Coming from a South Asian Bengali family & society, I think I have witnessed and had first hand experience of "child favoritism". This is not something newly discovered and for the sake of honesty please lets not pretend that I am talking about "UFO", specially if you are a South Asian parent.

Please understand that the purpose of writing this post is not to accuse or to point fingers at our parents in any way or form. We respect our parents and love them with our lives. Yet this barely discusses topic is definitely a very important one and I think it's time that not only the parents but every single family members become well aware of this much "need to be discussed" issue.

If you are growing up with your siblings, I am pretty sure you experienced this "child favoritism" from your parent at some point of your life. Whether you are the oldest, youngest or in between you should know it by now. If you didn't, well congratulations! May be you just joined an exclusive club that never existed at the first place unless you are the only child of your family.

In South Asian families, "child favoritism" is much more stronger than any other part of the world and it can be observed well before the child is even born. This issue becomes even more visible if the parents get to know that their unborn baby is a going to be a baby girl. You can almost guess that the child (baby girl) is about to face gender discrimination without even going through her full life story. The rise of "Sex-Selective Abortions" in South Asian countries like India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh are one of many indicators of such favoritism. Exceptions are there and I do not deny that fact either but that number so negligible that I don't think it's important enough to discuss on this limited scope.

We are living in a time and society where we are focusing more and more on "women empowerment". Starting from their education, social recognition, equal rights and stuff of that sort and I am all for it. I do not believe a society or human race for that matter can move forward excluding half of its population regardless of their gender. It's more like, trying to ride a bicycle that has one wheel on it. So, yes I think it's not only me but almost everyone of our society realizes that unless you have an empty brain. Unfortunate enough though, violence against women be it our sisters or mothers did not go down despite the fact that we are living in 21st century. However, I think a sense of social awareness is there and as we move on to this new millennia, things will get better for women and I am optimistic about it.

Bangladeshi Child SiblingsBangladeshi Children Looks On. © Ethika Rahman.

Now, please understand that child favoritism is not limited to the "gender" idea only. Quiet often it can be found while favoring one child over the other for various reasons and in most cases its the eldest child who enjoys this privileges. Sociologists from the University of California has performed a research on this subject matter and found out that 74% mothers and 70% of fathers has admitted of having a favorite child. The research report also found that in most cases it's the oldest child who is parent's favorite. As Professor Katherine Conger states:

I was a little surprised. Our hypothesis was that older, earlier-born children would be more affected by perceptions of differential treatment due to their status as the older child in the family.

I figured that truth by myself as well. While asking my Grandma and my Mom, the obvious answer was, "it was because of him/her who gave us the first joy of parenthood". Even though the answer is fairly understandable (even though I am not a parent), it also leaves certain unanswered questions in my mind.

While questioned heartily, in most cases parents would simply deny the entire issue with a fake laugh on their face as if it's not an issue at all. Perhaps most parents are not well aware of the life-long psychological effect that the other unfavored child may go through. I can assure you, it's not a pleasant one. As the unfavored child grow up, this issue gets planted at the core of their heart and mind, slowly but strongly. Strongly enough that at some point their child may feel betrayed by their own parents.

Prominent Psychologist Dr. Ellen Weber Libby who is practicing for well over 30 years and wrote extensively on "Child Favoritism" subject rightly states:

When parents deny its existence, they are less able to pay attention to the more important concern of how their children experience favoritism. The more unaware parents are of their own displays of favoring one child, or overlooking or neglecting another, the more unable parents are to grasping the impact of favoritism on their children. The behaviors of these parents are likely to undermine the mental health of the favorite child and to hurt those who are not favored.

On a personal level, I agree with Dr. Libby without any hesitation. As a full grown up man who is in his early 30', I have experienced enough to come to this conclusion at this point of my lifetime. It is painful even to talk about it, so much so that no amount of love or affection can actually melt that idea any longer, it's their and it will be there. Perhaps the saddest part is not the pain or mental sufferings of the unfavored one, it's how a child quietly distant him/herself from their parents who meant to be their everything. Sad indeed.


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