All parents tell their children little white lies from time to time. ‘Of course Father Christmas comes down the chimney!’ ‘Eat your spinach — you’ll get as strong as Popeye.’ ‘No, I didn’t put that pound under your pillow. It was the Tooth Fairy,’ ... and so on. It’s all part of the magic of childhood.

white lie: 善意的谎言

chimney: 烟囱

spinach: 菠菜

Popeye: 大力水手,美国的漫画人物

Tooth Fairy: 牙仙。牙仙是美国的民间传说。有两个版本,一个是说小孩子在换牙的时候,他们把换下的牙齿放在枕头底下。当他们睡着的时候,牙仙就会把牙齿收走,然后给他们一点零花钱;另一个是说牙仙是专门杀害换乳牙的小孩子,并带走他们的牙齿。

However, there’s one fib that’s bigger than all the others. It’s ‘I don’t have a favourite child.’

fib: 小谎;无伤大雅的谎言

In his fascinating new book, The Sibling Effect: What Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, Jeffrey Kluger, a father of two daughters, aged eight and ten, claims that ‘95 percent of parents in the world have a favourite child — and the other 5 percent are lying.’

Kluger may be exaggerating the figures for dramatic effect — but despite every parent’s vehement denial that they have a favourite child — scientific research shows that he is not far off the truth.

vehement: 强烈的;猛烈的

According to one recent study by researchers from the University of California — which followed 384 sibling pairs and their parents for three years — 65 percent of the mothers and 70 percent of fathers exhibited a preference for one child. As this was among families that knew they were being monitored, there’s a strong possibility the true figures could be significantly higher.

Favouritism is certainly a controversial topic. When raised as a subject for discussion on parenting websites, it always elicits a stream of outrage and angry denials.

favouritism: 偏爱,偏心

elicit: 抽出,引出;引起

But interestingly, a lot of personal anecdotes appear from parents who say they were overshadowed by a favoured sibling, or were, indeed, their mother or father’s favourite. It seems everyone knows favouritism exists — but nobody wants to put their hand up and say they’re guilty of it themselves.

anecdote: 奇闻;轶事;秘史

Other research, where siblings have been asked to say who their mother and father favour, suggests that mothers do tend to a show a preference for their first-born son, but fathers often dote on their youngest daughters.

dote on: 溺爱

Parents will often be drawn to the child who is easiest to get along with — or the child that shares similar traits to them. For example, mum will have a special bond with her sensitive, arty son, while dad lavishes attention on his sporty daughter.

arty: 附庸风雅的;装作爱好艺术的

sporty: 具有运动家品格的;参加多种体育运动的

Professor Scott says being least favoured in a family can color our behavior as adults. ‘Children who feel they are less loved within their family are more likely to develop low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.’

color: 歪曲;影响

But some experts believe being less favoured can have positive consequences. Professor Scott agrees that favoured children can sometimes find life difficult when they have to rub along in the real world.

rub along: 勉强维持