Whether you do good in reading, have higher IQ or if you land up in jail, all of it is connected to your birth order in the family.
Parents have debated for years if birth order matters in how intelligent or disciplined a child is. It has also been discussed if the birth order affects the personality traits of the child. For instance, it is believed that the oldest born is always ambitious, dominating, and conforming while the youngest sibling would be adventurous, rebellious, outgoing, and social. Even movies have propagated the stereotypes about birth order. Just look at films like Home Alone or Raising Helen, and you will understand that the films are clearly relying on stereotypes about how the oldest, second-born and youngest siblings should behave.
Now, a study called Birth Order and Delinquency: Evidence from Denmark and Florida from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found that the second-born child is more prone to delinquency. A previous study from Norway, Explaining the Relation Between Birth Order and Intelligence, children born after the first one do worse in academics and are less hireable than the first child. There is also a higher chance of teen births among women. The current study delved deeper and found more ways the later-born children are at a disadvantage.
So, if you are a second-born, you probably know these things already, or have a second child, you might need to keep out a careful watch about falling for the trap of disciplinary problems.
In both Florida and Denmark, the study revealed that "second-born boys are substantially more likely to exhibit delinquency problems compared to their older sibling." The problem was big enough to show that second-born boys have a 40% chance of being in the juvenile justice system than first-born boys. So, these are not just small mischiefs or naughty actions, it runs deeper than that.
According to the study, second-born boys are more likely to be in jail by the age of 21 in Denmark and that too for severe violent crimes (36%). In comparison, boys in Florida were more likely to be suspended from school (29%). Second-born boys in Denmark also did worse in reading and math while in Florida they only did worse in a reading test. This is of course not true for all families but the data from the criminal justice system revealed that second-born boys were more likely to be in jail than older siblings.
The study also found that mothers were most likely to be employed and used daycare for second-borns between the years of two and four than older siblings. And it goes without saying that parental attention is important for a child's growth.
However, there is a silver lining here as well. There was no evidence that the second child was less healthy or had more disabilities. In fact, they go to the same schools and are more likely to attend preschool, which means that they do have all the right launching pads like their siblings.
There are multiple reasons that the researchers found. One explained this by saying that "it is well known that first-borns have undivided attention until the arrival of the second-born," which means that the first-born would have more parental investment while the second one would get divided attention.
Another reason was that the second-born was more likely to be influenced by the older sibling.
“The firstborn has role models, who are adults,” co-author Joseph Doyle of MIT told NPR. “Second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational two-year-olds, you know, their older siblings.”
When Doyle was asked if maternal attention was the reason behind it he said that it is a possibility but more research was required. “Both the parental investments are different, and the sibling influences probably contribute to these differences we see in labor market and what we find in delinquency,” he told NPR. “It’s just very difficult to separate those two things.”
This is not the first time that birth order has been studied. Just in 2007, a Norwegian study that has been quoted by many and mentioned earlier, Explaining the Relation Between Birth Order and Intelligence, claimed that eldest siblings, on an average, have three more IQ points than younger brothers, while a book named Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives published in 1996 by Frank J. Sulloway, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley said that second-born children tend to be exposed to less language than eldest children, according to New York Times. “The best environment to grow up in is basically two parents who are chattering away at you with fancy words,” said Dr. Frank.
However, regardless of the studies, parents don't love one child less than the other. They just have a little less time for younger siblings because they are most likely busy earning money to keep everyone fed and taken care of. Parents aren't neglectful just because they are not able to give as much as time as they did to the older sibling. With more mouths to feed and take care of, it is acceptable and obvious that they would require more finances. While our childhood and family environment matters a lot, who we are and who we become is in our hands.