Autistic Child Favors One Parent? Here’s Why!

Many children love to cling to a parent. The parents are the first to show unconditional love, making the child feel safe with them. This can be heightened when the child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

While it’s common for kids to favor parents over other adults, sometimes an autistic child will favor one parent over the other. That leads to some questions, like why the child prefers one parent and what can be done to help the child be more accepting of the other parent.

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Potential reasons child prefers one parent

There are plenty of potential reasons that may affect an autistic child’s preferences when it comes to which parent they favor. Taking care of autistic children is a delicate balance, and it’s possible one of the parents may be upsetting that delicate balance.

Let’s take a look at some potential reasons why an autistic child may favor one parent over another.

Emotional stability

Some autistic children can feed off the emotions of those around them. They are what’s called hypersensitive to emotions. If a parent is angry or upset, it can trigger an emotional response from the child.

An autistic child can become overwhelmed by this emotional response, which can lead to an outburst. Recognizing this issue coming more often from one parent can lead to the child favoring the other parent.

A parent who may be quick to anger or upset can work on calming their own emotional response so the child doesn’t experience an overwhelming emotional response. More emotional stability can help reduce the chances the child favors one parent over the other.

Parent spends more time with their child

If one parent can spend more time with an autistic child than the other parent, the child will likely start favoring that parent. This is common among neurotypical children as well.

In families where one parent works and the other stays home, autistic children tend to have better relationships with the parent who is around more.

This happened in my family. My wife and I both worked when our oldest son was young. However, I worked overnights while she worked evenings. When my son would wake up, he would see me coming home.

Meanwhile, he would see my wife leave for work in the afternoons. He once told my wife, “Daddy loves me more because he comes home to me, and you leave me.”

A mom talking to her autistic son

That statement hurt both of us as parents. We were doing everything we could to make our little family work, and our son began favoring me because I was the one at home in the afternoon.

I loved my time with my son but hated how that made my wife feel. It’s important parents of autistic children ensure both parents get as much time to bond with the child as possible.

Upholds routine better

Many autistic kids prefer routine, and any changes to that routine can send them into an emotional tailspin. If one parenting style tends to be less structured and more spontaneous, it can actually harm their bond with their autistic child.

From the child’s perspective, they need that routine, and the parent not adhering to it can make the child angry, upset, or frustrated.

The parent must work with the child to help keep the routine going. While the desire to be a fun parent is understandable, your child may find you more fun if you keep things in a way they are familiar.

No defined reason

Sometimes, there’s no explanation for why an autistic child has a close relationship with one parent but not the other. A child’s preferences are completely up to them, and whether it is a neurotypical child or one on the autism spectrum, the child may just favor one parent.

Dealing with autism and attachment to one parent

It can be challenging when the child you love seems to choose your partner over you. We all want to be there for our children, but sometimes, being there means taking a step back and letting them favor the other parent.

Here are some things to remember when your child prefers their other parent.

Don’t take it personally

Parents should remember not to take it personally if their autistic child prefers one parent over the other. Don’t worry; your child doesn’t hate you. While you may need to adjust your parenting style, sometimes, it’s just the way it goes.

Don’t burden the child

It will hurt when your autistic child favors the other parent but isn’t old enough to understand this attachment may cause pain to one parent. Try to be understanding and helpful when the child asks for the other parent.

Schedule bonding time

As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea for the parent who isn’t favored to be able to have their own bonding time with their autistic child. Bonding time can help secure attachments between parent and child. It may not prevent the child from favoring the other parent, but it may reduce some of the favoritism.

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Be patient

Much like every other behavior with children with autism, it will take a lot of patience to weather the storm of favoritism. There may be times when the favoritism stops for a little while before picking back up again. Take your time and continue working with them to show how much you love them to help reduce this behavior.

Your child loves you, no matter what

Every parent knows it can hurt when your child starts showing more interest in other family members rather than you, especially when they are favoring one parent over the other. However, much like many things in life, this can pass; it just may require an extra bit of work on the parent’s part.

You may have to adjust your parenting style, spontaneity, or the amount of time you spend with your child to get them to stop favoring one parent quite so much. The child may take longer to respond to your attempts, so don’t take it personally and be patient. And it never hurts to have more bonding time with your child.


Q: Do autistic kids get attached to one person?

A: Kids with autism can get easily attached to one person, especially after they spend time together. They may become attached to parents, other family members, or close friends.

Q. Is attachment to the mother common in autism?

A: Children with autism often develop an attachment to their mother and prefer them to other adults. Many times, the children won’t engage in attention-sharing behaviors; instead, they often seek “maternal sensitivity.”

Q: Which parent carries the gene for autism?

A: Research has found that genetics likely plays a role in the development of autism. While no known cause for autism has ever been found, plenty of research suggests it may be passed down from the father.

Q: How do autistic children show love?

A: As children with autism may struggle with verbal communication, many show love rather than saying, “I love you.” They may share personal space, allowing someone to get close without touching to show love.


Coughlan, B., Marshall-Andon, T., Anderson, J., Reijman, S., & Duschinsky, R. (2019). Attachment and autism spectrum conditions: Exploring Mary Main’s coding notes. Developmental Child Welfare, 1(1), 76-93.

Grey, B., Dallos, R., & Stancer, R. (2021). Feeling ‘like you’re on … a prison ship’ – Understanding the caregiving and attachment narratives of parents of autistic children, Human Systems, 1(1), 96-114

Attachment and Autism Spectrum Disorder (Without Intellectual Disability) During Middle Childhood: In Search of the Missing Piece (2021).


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