Why do parents do it? Why do they favor one over the other, even unconsciously? I don’t know but the parents I run into seem to be so caught within their own webs that they seem to pull towards the excellent child, sometimes even the oldest, as that excellent child earns the blessing of unconditional love.
It is not that that child has done anything to cause the golden child problem. As I think about it, the golden child syndrome often becomes revealing of a not so golden family. In some cases, it hides a broken marriage that lacks effective and loving communication. In some cases, it reveals other children whose behaviors, attitudes, and addictions are cries for attention and love in the midst of stress and uncontrollable issues. In other cases, it reveals ineffective coping mechanisms and failing lives and broken hearts.
But all of that said, it is painful to watch families falling apart when one piece of the dysfunctional system fails, because the family is actually highly functioning at the level of dysfunction and then realizes it is painful. And I know this because I was a golden child and when my family lost grandparents, we found that this system was full of cracks and crumbling foundations- brokenness and hidden pains long alive and long smoldering and hidden. It is painful- to see and to help with.