Do Parents Play Favorites?


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — If you’re a parent you’ve heard it before — when one of your kids gets something from you — money or a present, even a Slurpee from 7-Eleven, your other child immediately wants to know “where’s mine?” As parents, of course, we always treat all of our kids equally, right? Or do we?

Of course as parents we love our children equally, but do we play favorites when it comes to money? Rutgers University marketing professor Kristina Durante and her colleagues tested that theory.

Durante told Ivanhoe, “We were having parents enter a lottery to win a treasury bond worth $25. Parents had to tell them with a name which child they would give the treasury bond to.”

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 percent of the time. Dads chose sons 87 percent. Durante said parents should know this spending bias exists and ensure all their kids have equal opportunities for enriching activities like music lessons, dance, and sports.

“We have to make sure we’re checking twice about equal access that both our children have,” continued Durante.

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

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.