Parental Favoritism in Adulthood: 16 Tell-Tale Signs (Praising,…)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

If your parents tell you they don’t have a favorite child, they’re probably lying. Before you get all up in arms, keep in mind that having a favorite child doesn’t mean that your parents loved you any less. It just means that they couldn’t help showing favor to one particular child. 

The reasons for having a favorite child can be many. For instance, perhaps one child has a similar personality to one of your parents and enjoys all the same hobbies. Chances are that the parent will show a bit more attention and favor to that child. If you’re wondering if your parents still have favorites now that you’re adults, you need to know what signs to look out for. 

Being the second favorite sibling can be a tough position to be in. In fact, it’s hard not to develop resentment towards your sibling when it happens. As an adult, you probably thought that things would change. If you are ready to bring about change, you need to first make sure that you are right about the favoritism. Once you understand the signs, you can strategize to overcome them or bring about positive change. If you would like to learn about the signs of adult parental favoritism, read on.

How to tell that your parents have a favorite child, even in adulthood – 16 signs:

1. Your parents always invest money in their ideas.

Money can play a big role in the adult relationship between parents and children. This is because parents want their children to have a good start, so they will often agree to invest in their ideas. For instance, a child might want to start a business and need capital or a down payment on a house. If you find that your parents always jump at the opportunity to help your sibling out financially and don’t show much enthusiasm to help you, you could be the second favorite. 

2. Your parents seem to have planned for one child’s future…and it’s not yours.

Parents have to do a lot of planning for their kid’s futures, and if they happen to have a favorite child, they might just be more excited about their future prospects than the other children’s. If it seems as if the planning for your sibling’s future seems to be more on point, perhaps there’s a reason behind it – and perhaps that reason is favoritism. 

3. While in company, your parents sing your sibling’s praises.

It might be a big red flag if you are sitting down to dinner with family friends and all your parents can do is tell them about your sibling’s achievements and progress in life. Of course, if your sibling isn’t there at the same dinner, this could merely be the reason why. 

4. Your parents act awkward when you bring up the favoritism, but don’t deny it.

If you confront your parents about the issue of favoritism and they start to act weird and evasive but don’t wholeheartedly deny it, you could be onto something. 

5. Your sibling and parents seem to have inside jokes.

Have you ever spent time as a family and noticed that your sibling and parents have inside jokes that you don’t have knowledge of? This probably means that they talk more or spend more time together. You could have missed out on a few of those bonding exercises!

6. They make a big deal of your sibling’s achievements.

If your parents extend you congratulations for your achievements but feature public social media posts and throw parties for your sibling’s achievements, you may certainly be dealing with a case of favoritism. 

7. Your parents seem more interested in your sibling’s kids than yours.

If your parents are close to your sibling and favor them, you might notice that they have a closer bond and relationship with their kids too. If you find that your parents pay your kids attention, but it doesn’t come close to the attention they give to your sibling’s kids, try to encourage more interaction. You could even encourage the kids to spend more time together, not just at family gatherings. 

8. No recourse is taken when your sibling acts out within the family.

If you are at a family gathering and do something that embarrasses the family, how do your parents react? Is it the same reaction they give your sibling if they do the same? If it’s not, be wary of this, as it could be a sign that you’re not the favorite at all. 

9. Your sibling is able to manipulate your parents, and you aren’t. 

Have you ever watched your sibling manipulate the parents and wondered how they did it? You could see your sibling change your parents’ minds about where to go for dinner, where to invest their money, and what to do as a family on Friday night. If you notice this happening, but you are never able to convince the parents to change their minds, then you may well be the second favorite child. 

10. Your parents and sibling seem to just hang out together when you are never asked to. 

If you find that you are only ever invited to big family gatherings and celebrations and never invited simply to barbecue on the weekend while your sibling is, you can rest assured that there’s a little favoritism at play. 

11. The parents compare everything you do with your sibling. 

If you find that absolutely everything you do in your adult life is compared to how your sibling has or would do something, then your parents might be struggling to hide their favoritism. 

12. When visiting, you do all the helping, and your sibling sits back. 

When you go over for a family dinner with the parents and your siblings, who does all the running around to assist with dinner? Does your sibling get asked to help, or do they get treated like royalty? This behavior can be very telling. 

13. Your parents are far more accepting of their partner than of yours.

When there’s a favorite child, nothing they do is ever wrong – which of course, means that they choose the perfect partner, right? The not-so-favorite child, however, may come under some scrutiny, from their career choice to partner choice. If your parents aren’t showing too much of a welcoming side to your partner while they fawn all over your siblings, it might be time to talk to them about the issue of favoritism. 

14. Your parents always seem keen on your sibling’s advice but never listen to yours.

Do you find that your parents never ask you for your advice, even when they need help with something that you have experience in? If they consistently ask your sibling for help and advice but never turn to you, it’s probably because you’re not the favorite. 

15. Your sibling seems to be your parents’ right-hand person at family events.

When you attend a family gathering, who is right next to your mom or dad? Who is scampering around with them to get everything right while you feel spare and unhelpful? If it’s your sibling, and you can find no way “in” to help out, it’s probably just a case of favoritism. 

16. Your parents just can’t stop talking about your sibling.

Whenever you spend time with your parents, do they simply rattle off about your sibling saying and doing this and that? If you are becoming annoyed with it, don’t react immediately. Perhaps they do the same thing to your sibling when you aren’t around. On the other hand, it could be yet another sign that your sibling is their favorite.

All in all

There are many signs to look out for when it comes to adult parental favoritism. If you notice these things happening consistently, it could be time to talk about it or find a way to work through it together. Alternatively, you could just let it go – if you have the strength for that.

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.