Undisciplined: The Parent Rap

May 14, 2020

Credit Mary Cassatt, The Child's Bath. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Today on the program, we are talking to Jill Suitor, one of the founders of a nearly 20 year old study focused on the relationships parents have with their adult children and, in particular, their favorite children. Yes, it's true parents have favorites. And children are often wrong about who that favorite is.

When sociologists Jill Suitor and Karl Pillemer first proposed a study to better understand the factors that go into making somebody's favorite child, they were repeatedly told that it just wouldn't work. Even if it was true that parents did have favorites, what mother or father was going to admit to it? Well, that was almost 20 years ago, and this family differences study has been extremely successful offering findings that have resulted in the publication of more than 60 journal articles, hundreds of media reports and a popular TED Talk. Why all the interest? Well, it might be because the study pulls back the curtain on something we all know but we don't really talk about. Parents often have favorites. But Suitor says children are often wrong about who the favorite is, and what being a favorite actually means. Jill Suitor is joining us on the line from Indiana where she is a distinguished professor of sociology at Purdue University.