I’ve always been fascinated by theories of birth order and how they can affect a child’s personality, so it was with great interest that I read this article over the weekend which cites a recent study out of Adelphia University that found that first-borns tend to be more intelligent, while younger siblings are more outgoing.
And that’s similar to the fairly accepted notion that first-borns tend to be over achievers (past studies that looked at U.S. presidents, Nobel Laureates or NASA astronauts found that they were overwhelmingly first-borns) and that the youngest are more carefree. Other studies have found that middle children are independent and inventive (though there is that middle child syndrome but that’s a completely different post).
As the oldest of four children, I’d like to think that I’m the smartest, though I’m pretty sure that’s not true. But I do find some of the arguments the study made quite interesting.
First, that first borns tend to score higher on intelligence measures because at some point, they were the only recipient of their parents’ attention. I know for a fact that we read to our oldest child more than our youngest (probably because by the time our 2nd came around we were too tired).
But while our youngest may be intellectually crippled as a result, apparently he’ll be more open to new experiences because he’s witnessed challenges his older sibling has had to overcome, thus giving him more security in overcoming obstacles (so it’s not all gloom and doom).
Though none of this explains why this over-achiever is now working for her “carefree” baby brother so obviously there are other factors at play. But it does shed some light on some things we may do as parents to unwittingly effect the outcome one way or the other.
So maybe instead of giving our oldest child more responsibility by default, we should try to beyond our comfort zone and dole out a little more to his baby brother (with a 4 year age difference that’s easier said than done). And maybe I can try a little harder not to coddle my youngest (that’s even harder to do because, well, he is my baby).
Or maybe I can stop reading articles about birth order and do a much-needed load of laundry. Hmmm…