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Almost half of grandparents have a favourite grandchild

Our recent survey, done in partnership with Mumsnet, reveals some shocking truths regarding an issue that many wouldn’t like to acknowledge: favouritism. 

grandparents child

In the survey of 2,000 parents and grandparents with more than one child, 23% of Mumsnet users admitted to having a favourite, while 42% of Gransnet users confessed to having a preferred grandchild.

One of the starkest generational differences is visible through parents favouring the youngest, whilegrandparents are enamoured with their first grandchild. Over half (56%) of parents stated that their favourite was the youngest child (26% preferred their oldest), whereas 39% of grandparents held their eldest in highest esteem.

Perhaps this is to do with their respective roles; 61% of parents said that their favourite child’s siblings are more ‘tricky or demanding’. Grandparents didn’t seem too fussed, with only 41% saying that their favourites are ‘the easy one’.


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What was important in picking their favourites?


  • One thing that seemed to unite both generations in picking their favourite is that for both parents (74%) and grandparents (67%), their child/grandchild is unstintingly loving and affectionate.
  • Humour also plays a big part - half of parents (51%) and 58% of grandparents admit to preferring the child that made them laugh the most.
  • Only a few of those surveyed chose their favourites on physical resemblances, with just one-third of grandparents’ favourite grandchildren reminding them of their own son or daughter.
  • Furthermore, less than half of the parents asked (41%) said that their favourite child reminds them of themselves, with only 14% of parents saying that their favourite child reminds them of their spouse.


Did gender matter much?


  • Grandparents seem to have a slight preference for their only granddaughters (16%) while 10% say their favourite is their only grandson.
  • On the other hand, less than a quarter (23%) of Mumsnet users surveyed say that the child in question is their only son, while those whose favourite was an only daughter were slightly fewer in number (15%).


Do they feel bad about favouritism?


  • 51% of Gransnet users with a favourite grandchild, and a third (32%) of Mumsnet users with a favourite child, declare they aren’t ashamed.
  • Half of Mumsnet (55%) and Gransnet (50%) users agree that having a favourite is ‘awful’, and the majority think it’s harmful for the favourite’s siblings (78% of Mumsnet users and 56% of Gransnet users). Just under half think that favouritism is bad for the favourite themselves (45% of Mumsnet users and 34% of Gransnet users).
  • However, favourites don’t always stick: 29% of Mumsnet users who have a favourite and 15% of Gransnet users who have a favourite change their favourite over time.


And do the other children know?


  • Only 10% of Gransnet users with a favourite grandchild (10%) say their favourite grandchild’s siblings are even aware of the situation.
  • 13% of Mumsnet users who said they have a favourite child believe their other children definitely or probably know who the favourite sibling is.


In response to this, Mumsnet and Gransnet founder Justine Roberts said: ‘Favouritism is one of the last taboos and can provoke a lot of guilt, so it’s important to say that feeling a greater affinity for a particular child - often, whichever one is willing to put their shoes on - is fairly common, and doesn’t have to be disastrous. Toxic favouritism, where siblings become aware of being treated unfairly over the long term, is a whole other ball game. The distilled Mumsnet wisdom on this issue is that lots of parents like their children differently: the crucial thing is to love them all wholly.’


Read the full survey results here and visit Mumsnet's own survey page for a full breakdown of their results.


favouritism survey infographic

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Images: Shutterstock