Sibling Rivalry: Even Parents Of Adults Play Favorites

A new study reveals that more than 60% of young adults today have received financial help from their parents. That number’s pretty high but it’s not all that surprising. What is shocking, at least to me anyway, is that many parents play favorites when it comes to helping out their adult children. In fact, parents who described their children were cheerful, self-reliant and easygoing before age 12 were more likely to give them financial gifts or loans as adults, according to lead author Patrick Wightman of the University of Michigan.

Can you imagine how awful that must make the other children feel? It’s typical behavior, it seems, but that doesn’t make it right. Of course, every family is different and has its own unique situation, but this is the first time I’ve heard of such blatant favoritism (when it comes to finances, anyway) in a large-scale study like this one.

Of the “lucky” adults (aged 19-22) receiving financial help from their parents, the average amount was $12,185. Around 42% of parents help adult children pay their bills, 35% help with college tuition, 23% help with vehicle expenses and 22% help with rent, according to USA Today.

Ironically, parents are more likely to help a self-reliant child, explains Wightman. “If they perceive one of [their] kids to have a better attitude or to be more self-reliant, that kid has higher odds of receiving this type of support,” he said.

(Photo: Julia Ivantsova/Shutterstock)

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  • M

    I recently discovered that my father has been playing favorites, except I’m the one being favored. My dad makes a lot of money and has lots to spare, so every month he gives me about $100, just to be nice. I’m a university graduate living on my own with a good job and able to take care of myself, but that extra money helps with little things here and there. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my younger brother who is working to put himself through university and mentioned “the money from Dad” when he said he was short this month. He asked “What money?” Needless to say, I’m the only one my father has been giving money to, even though my brother needs and deserves it more than I do. We haven’t confronted my father about it yet, because how do you confront your parent for playing favorites?! If I ask my Dad for a little extra money he sends it instantly, but when my brother does my Dad grills him on what it’s for and gives him a lecture about managing his money. What do we even do in that situation? Honestly I’m glad this article was written, because I’ve been struggling to come up with a solution.

    • Andrea

      M, are you a woman? Maybe (and the only reason I am suggesting this is because it is somewhat true in my own family), your dad is old fashioned and thinks daughters need the help while sons need to learn to be providers, self-reliant, and mature. While maybe daughters need to be taken care of until they get married.

    • M

      Yes I am, and wow I’d never thought of that. Thanks Andrea! I’m also the only one of my siblings (I have an older brother and sister) who speaks to my father regularly, so that probably has a lot to do with it. It’s a whole myriad of dysfunctional family issues!

    • Andrea

      You know that could also be. And while it maybe is kinda sucky, it is also understandable.

  • CW

    “Can you imagine how awful that must make the other children feel?” OTOH, I know a bunch of families where the sibling who hasn’t sponged off the parents feels better about himself/herself as a result. Who WANTS to be the lazy mooch in the family?

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