There have been multiple studies (and also people claiming to know stuff who basically make it up based on personal experience) about the role that birth order plays in our personality and development.
It seems first-borns are leaders, and also more prone to anxiety. Youngest kids are spoiled, middle kids are good at fending for themselves, and on and on.
What (real) science has strong evidence for, though, is that your second-born child is more likely to behave badly – even once they’re an adult.
A 2017 study from MIT, The University of Florida, and Northwestern University found that there’s a good chance your second child – especially if he’s a boy – will have more behavioral issues than his (or her) older sibling.
Lead author Joseph Doyle and his team studied thousands of family in Denmark and in Florida, and found that those second-born kiddos are not only more likely to challenge their parents more in early childhood, but also are more likely to have problems at school…or even with the law.
“Second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings.”
The researchers believe the reason for this is mostly “differences in parental attention,” which they consider “a potential contributing factor to the gaps in delinquency across the birth order.”
“Second-born children tend to have less maternal attention than do their older siblings because first-born children experience their mother’s maternity leaves and temporarily reduced labor market participation both following their own births as well as following the birth of the second-born.”
They also believe that who the child looks up to for guidance on how to act could play a part.
“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,” Doyle told NPR.
I take issue with the “slightly” modifier on “irrational,” but the rest makes sense.
In the end, we know there’s not a whole lot we can do with the information; younger kids will always idolize the older ones, and there’s only so much time, so many hands, and so much attention to go around.
It’s worth keeping in mind, though. Maybe try to tip the scales by scheduling 1-on-1 time between a parent and each child separately, letting the younger child be the star of the day on occasion, or just being more aware of who is getting the bulk of your time.
Easier said than done, for sure, but you don’t want to spend all of your hard-earned college savings on bail money and legal fees, do you?
Just something to think about…