Why does a parent hate love

When parents distribute their love unevenly

On the playground. A family with two little boys. The older one is shy, introverted and anything but a daredevil. The younger one romps around, is loud, laughing, destroying sand cakes and knocking over younger children. The little son receives a lot of attention from mom and dad. But not censuring or annoyed, they reward him with pride, which is often wrapped in a smile. The quiet bigger one receives little attention, if he vies for attention, this is perceived as a nuisance. It seems that the parents are more fond of the second-born.

"It happens that parents don't like their children straight away - but what is pathological and what is not?" Asks the Salzburg child and adolescent psychologist Manfred Wünsche. Just because I get along better with a child, because it suits me better, doesn't have to mean that it affects the love for the other - unless there are specific relationship disorders with one of the children, explains the expert.

Relationship disorders can have different reasons and causes. They often occur during pregnancy or soon after birth. "Up to 20 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth, which can have an enormous impact on their relationship with the child. Because the mother is sad for no reason, cannot be happy about the child, everything is too strenuous, and she cannot stand the screaming and fails to bond. It can be very different with another baby who doesn't have this depression, "says Wünsche. Today we know about these difficulties and attempts are made to counteract them with appropriate psychological and psychiatric aids.

Multifactorial Influences

In addition, the starting conditions play a major role: "How do the parents feel when a child is born? How safe do they feel? What is the economic situation, does the family live very cramped? How stable is the partnership? How stable do you feel the parents mentally?

"If I have an anxiety disorder, for example, I react very differently to my child who is doing gymnastics at the playground or at home. Or if I do not feel physically stable - for example due to a herniated disc - I will end up with a 'normally' lively child We also know that children with attention deficits or hyperactive children have an increased risk of being neglected or mistreated by their parents, "says Wünsche, who is also active in behavioral therapy, parenting training and psychotherapy.

There is no world without inequality

Very few parents would admit that they are more fond of a child. Sure, most of them try to treat their children the same way, but sometimes it only almost succeeds. "Inequality is a basic experience. Above all, the context in which it happens is important. In every society there are 'sorting machines' such as school or work that create inequalities per se. But it just doesn't fit in the family because it does should be a place where children experience encouragement and solidarity as early as possible, "says sociologist Martin Diewald from Bielefeld University.

But can parents defend themselves against loving one child more and one less? The developmental psychologist and genealogist Hartmut Kasten affirms this. "The basic condition for this is that you perceive this feeling and that you have the will to change something." In his opinion, the best strategy for sharing your love fairly is to seek fairness and justice. "Every child is worth being treated and encouraged according to their slumbering inclinations, abilities and occupational preferences."

Childlike strategies

However, if families have little money to spend on leisure activities, music lessons or an expensive sport, the resources may not be shared fairly, but the parents support the child they expect the most from. Disadvantage can also be related to the child's personality. There is the sunshine and the grouch child. The youngsters who are quickly enthusiastic about something and accept many offers, and those who are difficult to motivate.

Relatively soon children develop different strategies to defend themselves against unsolidary or unjust behavior. "Protest is a common way children react to get what they need. Protest is a healthy response here," says a child psychologist.

When parents react to this, the child learns that protest works and that their behavior can influence that of the parents. But they also learn that adults can correct themselves: "You are right, that was really unfair." However, if the protest does not get through or even leads to a worse reaction or even violence, the child will develop alternative reactions. "It withdraws, falls silent, adapts or reacts aggressively on its part - because it then has the feeling that its needs are not valuable," explains Wünsche.

The unloved child

A post from the Internet forum "The Unloved Child" shows how stressful that feels. Here a young woman writes: "My sister is the child I want - I the undesired one. I know that too. My mother often told me that it would be better if I didn't exist. I always tried to get everything right To do. To be good. Perfect. Never to criticize her. But for her I'm a disappointment. I've always wondered what I'm doing wrong. What's wrong with me. "

"Such realities are more common than expected, but I also believe that most parents try not to live it that way," says Manfred Wünsche. (Anja Pia Eichinger, February 23, 2019)