The age-old sibling rivalry has left us pointing fingers for generation after generation, arguing over who is their parents favorite, who is stealing the attention and who is the smartest. The competition is fierce with each of us personally invested and passionate about our own claims.
Middle children have long claimed that they get the short end of the stick, and a new study from MIT economist Joseph Doyle may just prove their point!
Doyle, along with his colleagues Sanni Breining, David Figlio, Krzys Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth examined data from thousands of families across both Denmark and Florida for their report, analyzing possible connections and patterns to better understand the impact of birth order on the personality of children. They concluded that second-born children, especially sons, have a 25-40% increase in their likelihood to become troublemakers both at school and with the police compared to the first-born children in their families.
Compare this to previous studies that have concluded that the first-born child in a family statistically has a higher IQ, performs better throughout their education and in turn earns more money, and you can see a stark contrast!
In an interview with NPR, Doyle explained, “The firstborn has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings. Both the parental investments are different, and the sibling influences probably contribute to these differences we see in the labor market and what we find in delinquency. It’s just very difficult to separate those two things because they happen at the same time.”
These second-born children are more likely to rebel, acting out as risk takers and troublemakers. Whether this is a desperate bid for the attention of the adults in their lives or their way of attempting to emulate their less than mature at this stage older siblings, the end result is concerning. The second-born child in a family has a much higher risk of getting kicked out of school, ending up in juvenile detention or spending time in prison!
Obviously, this is a generalization and does not apply to all families directly, as another researcher Shankar Vedantam explained to NPR. “We all tend to draw conclusions about our immediate family experiences. This research, of course, is painting a broad picture. It doesn’t describe what’s happening in every single family.”
That being said, there are some steps that you can take to increase the chances of your second-born child succeeding in school and growing up to be a responsible member of society! Per the conclusion of the study, spend some more time with your second-born child, giving them more attention than you may believe is required. Have conversations with them, show interest and encourage them to open up. Above all else, set a good example for your child, providing them with a healthy, mature adult role model!