Headline, May16, 2014

'''' Hi - Hi ! MOM !..... ::...... 

Hello - Hello ! DAD ! ''''

IN HER BOOK : Mother Nature; A History Of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection, anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy of the University of California at Davis, cites work-

Conducted with coots, a species of of black-and-white waterbird common in Europe and the Americas. Unlike other birds, coots don't pour most of their parenting efforts into their strongest chicks:

But rather spread the care around in the hope of maximising the raw number of offspring that survive. This can mean not just remembering to treat the weakest of your offspring equally but favouring them, since they are the ones that need the help.

In case a mother forgets which chick is the youngest  -coots do all look remarkably alike-   nature provides an unmistakable cue in the form of a bit of fancy red plumage on babies' heads. Baby birds don't have the colorful tuft for long, but for the period they do, they are irresistible, and-

Mothers with a nest of babies will steer extra food to the reddest head in the bunch.The chapter in Hrdy's book that deals with the coot is called ''Why Be Adorable?'' The behaviour of human and animal families answers many questions neatly.

IF PHYSICAL appearance can be such an important driver of favouritism, gender, which goes beyond mere looks and into the very essence of the child, should be even more powerful. And it is. The oft seen pattern of parents with cross-gender preference in their kids-

The dad who's helpless in the face of his daughter's charms or the mom who adore her prince of an eldest son   -is one good example. Such favouritism patterns hardly exist in every family, but they're more common than we think, as Salmon discovered in 2003 study:

That was published in the journal Human Nature. ''I asked subjects to list which child in the family was their favourite,'' she says. ''Overall, the most likely candidate for the mother's favourite was the firstborn son, and for the father, it was the last-born daughter,'' 

Studies that have dug-deeper into this preference have found that it's not just the frilliness of a little girl that appeals to Dad or the uncomplicated love that can come from a boy that delights Mom. And while Freudians would raise the oedipal specter-

Modern studies have marginalised that sector. Instead, what parents seem to value most in their opposite-sex children are the traits that, paradoxically, are associated with their own sex  -the sensitive mom with the poetic son, the businessman dad with the M.B.A daughter.

Reproductive narcissism, again, may play a role there. It's not always easy for a father to see himself replicated in a daughter or a mother to see herself in a son. But if the kids can't look like you, they can at least act like you. Sometimes, children may come by these traits innately.

Sometimes it can be tactical, a way to court a little extra love. In this sense, kids are like tree leaves, sorting themselves out so that they grow in a shaft of light not blocked by the leaf above.  

''Siblings are devilishly clever,'' says author and family expert Frank Sulloway of the University of California, Berkeley. ''much smarter than psychologists. They are constantly trying to fine-tune their niche to squeeze the maximum benefits out of their parents.''

Gender may be especially powerful in determining favouritism in three-child families. As a rule, first and last-born children have a better shot at being being at least one parent's favourite than middle kids do. In all boy or all girl families this is especially so:

Since the middle child stands out neither by birth order nor by sex. That's the case too in families in which the gender sequence is, say, boy-boy girl or boy girl-girl, since the middle child is not unique.

Shifting the sequence, however  -to boy-girl-boy or girl-boy-girl  -may change everything. In these cases, the uniqueness of gender can trump everything else.

''If you have a child who is different for any reason, especially being the only girl or only boy,'' says Salmon, ''that child is going to get extra attention and investment.''

Whichever child is the favourite, once patterns are established, they're hard to break. Still favouritism can fluctuate, depending on what are known as family domains. 

That's what happens inside the home and what happens outside it, what happens on the soccer field and what happens in the living room.

The ex-jock father who favours his athletic son may be driven to distraction by the boy's restless energy when it comes time to have a conversation. When Dad is looking for quiet parent-child bonding, he may turn to his daughter.

Over the course of a childhood, the son may still come out on top, but the daughter will get enough attention that the disparity may not wind up being significant.

'' Favouritism patterns are pretty stable,''  says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, an associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire. '' But there are differences by domain. 

It's a problem when a child isn't favoured in any area at all.''

So, I think time to move on to The Pain Of The Second Best:

For all this familial compensating, psychologists   -to say nothing of parents themselves-   rightly wonder what the long-term damage of favouritism may be. Can you go through your entire childhood looking enviously at the crowned prince or princess-

Across the dinner table and develop some psychic scars?!

The Honour and Serving of this post continues. Make sure that All Parents get to read this great and good research.  Don't miss the next one and do share forward.

With respectful dedication to all the kids in the wide and huge world. See Ya  all  Kids - on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The World's Favourite '''

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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