Curious Parents

The Oldest Is The Smartest And The Youngest Is The Rebel (And Other Studies In Birth Order)

Are you the responsible eldest sibling, constantly looking out for your younger brothers and sisters? Are you the young one, who always gets away with everything? Or the peacekeeping middle child, ever looking to help resolve conflict? Research shows that there is some truth behind birth order stereotypes.

Older and Wiser?

You've probably heard that first-born siblings are bossy, or natural leaders, and over ambitious. A lot of that might be folklore, but a 2017 study found that some of the birth order stereotypes may hold true. "As early as age one, latter-born children score lower on cognitive assessments than their siblings, and the birth order gap in cognitive assessment increases until the time of school entry and remains statistically significant thereafter," according to the study published in Journal of Human Resources. Translation: The oldest siblings really are the smartest.

For the study, researchers analyzed data collected from about 5,000 children up to 14 years old. They also talked to parents about their behavior during pregnancy and afterwards. As the Miami Herald explains: "The findings showed first-born children tended to score higher on verbal, reading, math and comprehension skills as early as just after birth to age 3, and differences in performance between first-borns and other children increased with age."

Thank (Or Blame) Your Parents

The study researchers say that any intelligence gap between sibling is likely due to parenting. "Mothers take more risks during pregnancy and are less likely to breastfeed and to provide cognitive stimulation for latter-born children," they explain. That stimulation includes reading, doing crafts with kids, and playing instruments. Previous studies have found that eldest siblings make more money later in life, and attain higher levels of education, and researchers believe these finds may explain that.

Of course, if you're a youngest or middle child, you've got some advantages too. Studies show youngest children really are more likely to take risks, and are even the most likely to be self-employed, especially if their parents weren't. Other research shows that middle children are the most likely to be "pro-social." In other words, they're more likely to look out for and help others. So whether you're a big sister, a little brother, or caught somewhere in the middle, there's plenty to brag (to your siblings) about. 

Watch and Learn: Our Favorite Videos About Birth Order

How Birth Order Affects Your Personality

According to research, middle children are more cooperative, flexible and sociable. What about the oldest and youngest?

Why Is The Oldest Is The Smartest?

It may have more to do with how parents treat their kids than the kids themselves.

Regardless of Birth Order, Siblings Make You Happier

Whether you're the youngest, oldest or in the middle, you may benefit from having brothers and sisters.

Written by Curiosity Staff July 6, 2016

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