The Madeleine Brand Show for June 13, 2012

New study says parents do play favorites with their kids

The Olympic Torch Continues Its Journey Around The UK

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A child on a man's shoulders awaits the arrival of the Olympic Torch on June 11, 2012 in Tomintoul, Scotland.

Parents don't usually own up to playing favorites among their children, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, or that kids don't feel like one sibling is treated differently than others. There's new research out from the University of Michigan that shows parents react more positively to a kid who has an agreeable personality. The study is based on more than 2,000 interviews with 1,368 young adults ages 19-22 and their parents.

Not the most surprising study, but researchers also found that those kids will get more financial support from their parents through life, beyond money for just college tuition or bills, like cars or cash.

Survey results showed that parents gave more to children who they thought were more agreeable when they were younger. Kids rated as agreeable were rated higher than their siblings on being "cheerful, happy," "self-reliant" and "got along well with others his/her age." "They're more likely to help those who, even at a young age, help themselves," says Patrick Wightman, lead author of the study.

While parents give to kids because of love and altruism, Wightman mentioned one reason was also because they potentially view their kids as investments. And they may put more money into one child because he or she seems more likely to be successful. "We do have evidence at least in this regard that parents, I guess you'd say, are betting on the winner," said Wightman.


Patrick Wightman, researcher at the University of Michigan

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