Playing Goalie, Not Favorites

By Mark Eyerly, April 3, 2024
Student-athlete Kate Lawrence ’24 presents research on the impacts of parental favoritism at national conference.

It’s not often that academic research can simultaneously educate you and help settle long-standing family debates. But that was the case for Kate Lawrence ’24.

A psychology major and member of the women’s soccer team, Kate and her older brother, Ryan, have a running joke with their parents, 10 cousins, and several aunts and uncles: the belief that the adults’ second-born children are their least favorite.

Under the guidance of Amanda Faherty, an assistant professor of psychology, Lawrence and several classmates researched if parental favoritism existed and, if so, how it impacted their children’s resulting quality of life.


Lawrence was the Bombers' backup goaltender, and a member of the Liberty League's All-Academic team. (Photo by Ithaca College Athletics Creative Media)

Their findings: perceived parental favoritism did not predict levels of confidence or self-esteem among first-born or second-born siblings between the ages of 18 and 29. That was a relief to the second-born Lawrence child — sort of. (Despite family folklore, Lawrence thinks she might be her dad’s favorite.)

“At first it was disheartening, after a whole semester’s work, but we learned that no news is still news.”

And even though her research did not confirm family lore, it provided opportunities for academic growth. Lawrence was among 13 students who presented research findings from their various studies at the 2024 Convention of the Eastern Psychological Association meeting in Philadelphia.

“I came to college with no research experience,” said Lawrence, who grew up in Bayport, Long Island. “The research we get to do here as undergraduates is just phenomenal.”

This was one of three research projects Lawrence undertook during her time at Ithaca College. The others involved the effects of dating apps (positive for well-being and self-esteem) and how campus friendships were affected by COVID restrictions (unknown due to an inadequate sample size).

Faherty, the psychology professor, advised all three studies and has taught Lawrence in seven out of the student's eight-semesters at IC. She said of Lawrence: “Kate is an excellent student – the type of student you always want in your class. She comes prepared and willing to participate and ask questions. More importantly, she is a wonderful person. Kate is always caring, genuine, and willing to help her teammates on the research team.

“I think one of the most important values of smaller, liberal arts environments is developing close bonds with students. I know this is one of the reasons that drew me to teach at Ithaca.”

Amanda Faherty, assistant professor of psychology

“I do hope Kate and I stay in touch,” Faherty added. “I think one of the most important values of smaller, liberal arts environments is developing close bonds with students. I know this is one of the reasons that drew me to teach at Ithaca.”

Lawrence described Faherty as “one of the professors I’m closest to. She has been a great mentor to me. I sat in her office countless times going over everything from research problems to improving my study techniques for her classes, to making pro-con lists for the grad schools I was admitted to.”

Ultimately, Lawrence, who is also an education minor, decided to attend Simmons University in Boston to pursue a master’s degree in social work.

During her time at IC, Lawrence was a goalie for the soccer team and a two-time member of the Liberty League All-Academic team.

“I just love the adrenaline rushes,” she said of being a goalie. She also credits being a student-athlete with strengthening her time-management skills.

What has Lawrence enjoyed most about IC?

“I’ve been able to meet so many people from so many backgrounds that are different from my own,” she said. “It’s opened my mind to what else is out there beyond what I knew.”