First borns are smarter. More out-going. The trail blazers.
Middle children are not quite as intelligent and brimming to the hilt with neuroses. But they’re creative and crafty.
The youngest are craftier still, manipulative. Spoiled. The benefactors of parents who finally got their technique ‘right’.
True or false? Science can’t really tell us whether there is any truth to decades of persistent discussion about the effects of birth order on the intelligence and personality traits of children, later adults. But word knows they have tried. And the evidence of late is, without declaring it an open and shut case, becoming a litter stronger.
First, the theory.
There’s quite a bit to it but the elements make intuitive sense.
First born children are monopolists of parental love, affection and teaching. They’re also raised in a home with only adult influences (generally) and this leads to an above average exposure to intellectual stimulation. Then, when the next child arrives they also benefit from ‘the tutor effect’ – an established theory that teaching someone helps you learn more efficiently.
The second child does not have this same monopoly. The third child has even less and so and so forth.
The effects of this assumption are blown out of proportion, of course, by the number of children in a family. An only child is not (according to the theory) as smart as a first born because they don’t get the benefit of teaching the siblings that come after them.
In a family with two kids, there is a 50 per cent chance of being a first born. But only a 33 per cent chance with three kids.
That’s important, as the Scientific American points out, because it skews quick facts like ’21 of the first 23 astronauts in space were firstborns’.
So, what’s the science like?
Vague, although it’s been getting better.
The science regarding the intelligence link to birth order is a little more promising. In a 2007 study of 250,000 Norwegian military conscripts, it was established that those born first were on average 3 IQ points ahead of the second child, who was in turn one IQ point ahead of the third. It doesn’t sound like much but as Time Magazine relates: