How Parental Favoritism Affects Sibling Relationships And Strategies To Address It

What's Covered

As a sibling, you might have experienced parental favoritism firsthand. Maybe one of your siblings seemed to always get more attention, praise, or privileges from your parents. It’s natural to feel hurt, resentful, or even jealous in these situations.

However, parental favoritism can have deeper and long-lasting effects on sibling relationships, as well as on your own self-esteem and confidence. In this article, we will explore the different types of parental favoritism, the possible consequences for siblings, and some strategies that you can use to address this issue.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that parental favoritism can come in different forms. Sometimes, it’s explicit and intentional, such as when a parent openly shows more affection or preference for one child over the others. Other times, it’s implicit and unconscious, such as when a parent unconsciously favors a child who shares their interests, personality, or appearance.

Regardless of the type, parental favoritism can create a sense of unfairness and competition among siblings, and can lead to feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or inferiority. In the following paragraphs, we will delve into the effects of parental favoritism and the ways to cope with it.

Key Takeaways

  • Parental favoritism can lead to negative emotions such as resentment, jealousy, inadequacy, pressure, guilt, neglect, low self-esteem, and depression.
  • Coping mechanisms for dealing with parental favoritism can include distancing oneself, seeking validation from other sources, and attention-seeking behaviors.
  • Rebuilding sibling relationships takes time, effort, and may involve difficult conversations and uncomfortable emotions.
  • Strategies to cope with parental favoritism include acknowledging feelings, setting boundaries, focusing on self-care, and seeking outside support.

Types of Parental Favoritism

There’s no denying that parental favoritism, in its various forms, can have a significant impact on sibling relationships.

Some common examples of parental favoritism include parents showing more attention or affection to one child over another, giving one child more privileges or opportunities, or consistently praising one child’s achievements while ignoring the other’s.

These actions can lead to negative impacts on sibling relationships, such as feelings of resentment, jealousy, or inadequacy.

In some cases, the favored child may also feel pressure to live up to their parent’s expectations or feel guilty for receiving preferential treatment.

Meanwhile, the unfavored child may feel neglected or ignored, leading to feelings of low self-esteem or even depression.

Over time, these negative emotions can strain sibling relationships and create long-lasting feelings of tension and animosity.

Effects of Parental Favoritism

When you experience parental favoritism, it can lead to feelings of resentment and jealousy towards your favored sibling. This can cause emotional distress and tension within your family dynamic.

In some cases, these negative effects can lead to long-term estrangement between siblings and their parents.

Resentment and Jealousy

Jealousy and resentment can fester among siblings when parental favoritism is present, leading to strained relationships and a sense of unfairness. Siblings who feel neglected or less favored may develop feelings of anger, bitterness, or hostility towards their parents and the favored sibling. This can cause a rift in their relationship with each other, making it difficult to establish trust and create a harmonious bond.

To cope with these negative emotions, siblings may resort to various coping mechanisms, including distancing themselves from their parents and the favored sibling, seeking validation from other sources, or engaging in behaviors that are meant to draw attention to themselves. However, these coping mechanisms can also have negative consequences, such as further escalating sibling rivalry or creating a sense of isolation and loneliness.

  • Feeling excluded or left out
  • Comparing oneself to the favored sibling
  • Acting out or seeking attention
  • Feeling a sense of betrayal or abandonment

It’s important for parents to be aware of the impact their behavior can have on their children and try to treat them equally. Siblings can also work together to address the issue and find ways to strengthen their relationship despite the presence of parental favoritism. By acknowledging their feelings and communicating openly with each other, siblings can develop a sense of empathy and understanding, which can help them overcome resentment and jealousy.

Emotional Distress

You may be feeling overwhelmed and distressed by the negative emotions that arise from parental favoritism among siblings. Emotional distress is a common reaction to feeling neglected, unloved, or even rejected by your parents. It can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem.

You may feel like you’re not good enough or that you’re constantly competing with your siblings for your parents’ attention and love. This can be exhausting and hurtful and can even have long-term psychological impacts on your mental health. To cope with these negative emotions, it’s important to find healthy ways to express them.

Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can help you process and validate your feelings. It’s also essential to find ways to build your self-esteem and self-worth, such as engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Ultimately, remember that you’re not alone in these feelings, and that there are resources and support available to help you navigate through them.

Long-Term Estrangement

If you’ve been struggling with the effects of parental favoritism for a long time, it’s possible that you may experience long-term estrangement from your siblings as a result. When one sibling is constantly favored over the others, it can create a rift that may be difficult to repair. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate this challenging situation:

  1. Dealing with guilt can be a major obstacle when it comes to reconnecting with estranged siblings. You may feel guilty for not trying harder to maintain the relationship, or for allowing the favoritism to come between you in the first place. Remember that it’s not your fault that your parents played favorites, and that you’re not responsible for repairing the damage on your own.

  2. Rebuilding sibling relationships takes time and effort. It may not happen overnight, and it may involve difficult conversations and uncomfortable emotions. However, if both parties are willing to work on the relationship, it’s possible to move past the hurt and resentment and build a stronger bond.

  3. It can be helpful to seek outside support, either from a therapist or a support group for those who’ve experienced parental favoritism. Talking to others who’ve been through similar situations can help you feel less alone and provide you with practical strategies for moving forward.

Strategies for Addressing Parental Favoritism

One effective way to address parental favoritism within sibling relationships is by promoting open communication and setting clear boundaries. Encourage your siblings to express their feelings and concerns in a safe and non-judgmental environment. This can help everyone understand each other’s perspectives and work towards finding solutions together.

It’s also important to establish clear boundaries with your parents to prevent them from showing favoritism. Let them know how their actions make you feel and what specific behaviors you’d like them to change. In some cases, seeking professional help through family therapy can also be helpful. A trained therapist can help facilitate open communication and provide guidance on how to navigate complex family dynamics.

They can also provide tools and techniques for managing the emotions that arise from parental favoritism. Remember, addressing parental favoritism can be a difficult and emotional process, but it’s important to prioritize your mental health and the health of your sibling relationships.

Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Developing a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence is crucial in navigating complex family dynamics, especially when dealing with parental favoritism. When you feel good about yourself, you are less likely to be affected by the actions of others, including your parents. Improving communication with your parents can also help you build your self-esteem. It can be challenging to talk about your feelings, especially if you feel like your parents won’t understand. However, by using positive reinforcement techniques, you can create a more supportive environment for yourself.

One effective communication technique is to use "I"statements instead of "you"statements. For example, instead of saying "You always favor my sibling over me,"you could say, "I feel left out when my sibling gets more attention than I do."This approach is less confrontational and allows your parents to understand your perspective without feeling attacked. Additionally, practicing positive self-talk and setting achievable goals can also help boost your self-esteem and confidence. By focusing on your strengths and accomplishments, you can start to feel more confident in yourself and your abilities.

Improving CommunicationPositive Reinforcement Techniques
Use "I"statementsPractice positive self-talk
Listen activelySet achievable goals
Be respectfulCelebrate your accomplishments

Addressing Parental Favoritism in Adulthood

As adults, we can’t ignore the impact of parental favoritism on our emotional well-being. It’s a difficult reality that we have to face, but it’s crucial to address it to heal relationships and move forward.

Here are three strategies to help you cope with parental favoritism:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings: It’s normal to feel hurt, angry, or resentful towards the favored sibling or your parents. Don’t suppress your emotions, instead, allow yourself to feel and process them. Seek support from a trusted friend or therapist who can help you work through your feelings.

  2. Set boundaries: If you feel uncomfortable or triggered around the favored sibling or your parents, it’s okay to set boundaries to protect your emotional well-being. Communicate your boundaries calmly and assertively, and be willing to compromise to find a solution that works for everyone.

  3. Focus on your self-care: Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Find activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, and prioritize your mental health. Remember that you’re worthy of love and respect, regardless of your parents’ favoritism.


Now that you understand how parental favoritism affects sibling relationships, it’s important to take action.

One strategy for addressing parental favoritism is to build your own self-esteem and confidence. Remember that your worth is not determined by your parents’ approval or favoritism. Focus on your own goals and successes, and find ways to validate yourself.

Another strategy is to address the issue with your parents directly. This can be a difficult conversation, but it’s important to communicate your feelings and discuss ways to improve the relationship.

If you’re an adult, it’s never too late to address parental favoritism and work towards a healthier relationship with your siblings and parents. Remember that with effort and communication, it’s possible to overcome the negative effects of parental favoritism and build stronger family relationships.

Share this article to your friends, spouse, family or the world! You never know the positive impact your act will do to the world.



Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas