Why your first born might be smarter!
For ages, parents and psychologists have sworn that birth order and personality is interlinked-- who came first, who is the baby of the family, and who is sandwiched in between -- influences the person we become. But is there any truth in this?
Let’s talk about your…Firstborn
A study conducted in Norway in 2007, found that firstborn children tend to have a slight boost in smarts compared to their younger siblings. The study of 250,000 siblings found that firstborns had a three-point IQ advantage over their closest brother or sister. The second born was one point ahead of the third and, after that, the effect faded.
Looking at parent evaluations of children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979, researchers found that mothers are much more likely to regard their first born as high-achievers. They regard their subsequent children as considerably more average in their class.
Most explain the edge that firstborns have by saying that they have more one-on-one parent time because attention is divided between fewer kids. They also have the responsibility of teaching and taking care of their younger siblings. Building these teaching skills helps them build learning skills that makes them better in school.
A recent study estimated that firstborns get approximately 3,000 hours more time with their parents between the ages of four and 13 than their younger siblings when they pass through the same ages. Many think the attention makes them sharp and responsible, with a greater pressure to succeed and do things properly.
It’s hard to back that observation up with evidence but, for example, some note that firstborns on average earn more money and achieve higher education levels. Presidents and Nobel Prize winners throughout history have been disproportionately made up of firstborns.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barrack Obama and even our very own PM Lee Hsein Loong have all been firstborns! So is there a link between birth order and personality?
Let’s talk about…the one in the middle
Psychologist Alfred Adler, and a contemporary of Freud started the popular conception that middle children who are squeezed between the oldest and the youngest tend to be agreeable team players who know how to deal well with others.
Middle kids theoretically don’t get any stretch of time living alone with mum and dad. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion.
Middle kids could get lost in the mix and feel left out of special roles and privileges, or end up being especially emotionally savvy, because they’re always challenged to stay dialled in and navigate the goings-on of the people around them.
Let’s talk about your…Lastborn
Popular wisdom says that the youngest, who never did quite shake the role of being the baby of the family, would tend to be more free-spirited, adventurous, risky, creative and rebellious. Youngest siblings often don’t have as many care-taking responsibilities and may have more freedom to do things their own way.
Some say families have kind of a survival of the fittest principle with each new child having to elbow her way into territory that isn’t already spoken for. A lastborn who comes into a pack of already straight-and-narrow siblings might carve out her own niche by being more spunky and daring.
As with most psychological theories, you probably know some babies of the family who fit this description and others who don’t.
But…what if you have an Only child?
In many ways, the only born is similar to the first born…but better.
Only borns are the mega-movers of the world. They are task-orientated and tend to be extremely well organised, highly conscientious and dependable. They are keen on facts, ideas and details and feel extremely comfortable with responsibility.
Things however can get problematic for the only born as they tend to be unforgiving, very demanding and they usually don’t accept criticism well. It is advisable to parents of the only born to instil the importance of teamwork into their child early on.
So, how does the birth order effect your child?
Some parents will read these descriptions and will recognise their kid’s characters right away! Others will dismiss any notion that these dynamics exist in their own families.
Mum, Korinthia Klein wrote on Babble.com’s forum; “My children don’t fit some of the stereotypical effects of birth order, but I don’t think any of them would be the people they are if they had arrived at different times.”
“It’s impossible for me to imagine what my son would be like without the constant influence of two older sisters.”
“In terms of parenting, the only way I’ve consciously taken birth order into account is to make sure I take pictures of the youngest child the way I did with the oldest. I’ve met too many grown babies of families who have no pictures of their childhoods because parents essentially ran out of camera steam by the time they came along.”
Dad and CEO of BabbleMedia.inc weigh in on the topic;
“The older I get the more profound I think the impact of birth order is, although [sic]…there are many factors that shape human behaviour and it’s a mistake to see birth order as overly deterministic — there are loads of exceptions to these principals and many more profound influences.”
“Nonetheless the effect of birth order is fascinating and I think each position confers different strengths and weaknesses.”
To that end, it’s important to note that no matter what science tells us, birth order can hardly seal our children’s fate. Our little ones’ personalities are still a random mix of our own genetic quirks, the chemical blend in which they were bathed with in the womb, and the different experiences they create and bump into during childhood.
If birth order really does nudge them in certain directions, it’s only one small piece of an elaborate puzzle that has not yet comes to an end.