Some element of favoritism occurs in just about every family, even if it's just the extra attention parents usually give a new baby or a sick child. Blended families face extra complications, including the possibility of tensions between stepparents and stepchildren. When one child is favored over the others, the well-being of the whole family can suffer.
Favoritism is not restricted to blended families. Parents can favor one child over another for many reasons, including gender, behavior, personality and personal interests. Stepparents often favor their biological children over their stepchildren. According to an article in "Psychology Today," favoritism can cause problems with depression, lack of self-esteem and lack of self-confidence later in a child's life.
In a blended family, it's not realistic to expect the stepparent and stepchildren to be close to each other right away. For instance, a stepmother is not going to feel the same immediate, unconditional sense of love for her stepchildren that she feels for her own children. Expecting either the stepparent or the stepchildren to automatically have deep feelings for each other would only put a lot of pressure on everyone involved. However, an ongoing attitude of favoritism is a different matter.
Some stepparents never emotionally connect with their stepchildren and might even view them with resentment, jealousy or hostility. If the child's stepparent and biological parent have a child together, both parents might favor the new child they have in common over the child from a previous relationship. This can cause long-term problems for the child who is less favored, including higher levels of aggression and poor performance in school, according to PsychologyToday.com.
The relationships between step-siblings and half-siblings can also be damaged by parental favoritism. The siblings might compete with each other for the affection of both parents, or they might each maintain closer ties to their own half of the family without ever really blending. In this circumstance the step-siblings might never develop a close relationship with each other and might have little connection as adults. According to an article by psychologist Ellen Libby at the HuffingtonPost.com, the best way for families to overcome this type of problem is to communicate openly and honestly with each other about their feelings and difficulties.