Playing favourites: Do mothers really prefer one particular child?

Almost every statement surrounding the Duke of York's disastrous TV interview and subsequent withdrawal of public duties this week mentioned that he was the Queen's 'favourite son'. But is this just added media drama or is it possible to love one child a little more than another? 

Historians described this week's royal mess as unprecedented. The most dramatic statement from a member of the royal family since Edward VIII's explosive announcement that he was renouncing the throne to marry Mrs Simpson.

There have been scandals involving Windsor house in the past, divorce, adultery and nude images paraded on the internet but never has a member of the Royal family been forced to withdraw from public life because of their unpopularity.

Throughout this debacle, Prince Andrew has been described as his mother's favourite son. Is it true, and should it even matter?


Golden child

Psychologists are pretty united on this front.

Research has shown that overwhelmingly yes, most parents do have a favourite child. From birth order to gender and how much a parent relates to their child in terms of personality means that one sibling will have pride of place in their parent's psyche.

Despite the research, parents struggle to accept the guilt that comes with preferring one of their children over another. And even if they battle to make sure it is kept under wraps, often children will perceive preferential treatment of a sibling by their parents.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip have four children. They are parents to Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. And while most view the Queen as a dedicated monarch, she is also just a mother.

Interestingly, psychologists believe that knowing you are the favoured one can lead to dark results. Unbridled confidence comes with feelings of entitlement and little grasp of the understanding that there are consequences for actions.



"She's my favourite," a friend of mine mouths to me behind her four-year-old's back. Her other children are playing happily in the room oblivious to their mother's focused adoration. So far.

In this case, the apple of her eye is her youngest, her only girl, and while I've noticed her giving more affection to this particular child, I'd put it down to being the baby of the family, the only daughter.

"She reminds me of my sister," my friend admits to me later, when the children are tucked up in bed. Her sister died from complications with a surgery when my friend was just 30.

There are reasons we connect with our children in different ways. Some stem from past experiences. Our relationships with others throughout our childhood have a significant impact on our current relationships.

We are all fallible and human. Our relationships ebb and flow. Connections change and evolve.


Tiger Woods, an only child, has spoken about how he grew up with the psychological advantage of having known he was the favourite. "I played my own set of rules," he famously admitted.


Bill Clinton, John Edwards and Mark Stanford are other examples of children who grew up being told they were the golden one in their families.

They, arguably, developed personalities that fed their success and ultimately their failures.

But if Andrew is the Queen's favourite child, then surely her heart must have broken even harder after the allegations surrounding his relationship with convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein emerged.

Royal or not, to love is to hurt. And that's one very big pedestal to fall off of, especially in the eyes of your beloved mother.

Image via TIME

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