We may be in for a spike in sibling squabbling over a study finding first-borns in families to be smarter than their brothers and sisters. The study not only tested kids' IQs and school grades, but examined their parents' behavior in how they did or didn't nurture intelligence in their children.
The study's findings, that first-borns typically have higher IQs and do better in school than their siblings, suggested to researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sydney, that parents have less time to nurture intelligence in their children after their first child is born.
Emotional support though, was not found to differ according to birth order. So, middle and younger siblings, don't try the "mom loved you best" argument!
What may be kind of surprising is that the study found the noticeably higher math, reading and cognitive skills in first-borns can be seen as early as the first year of life. The researchers actually began the study of the children at pre-birth and ended it at age 14.
The scientific discovery suggested by the study is that it's the aspect of parental influence on children's intellectual development, not the notion of being born smarter that accounts for the increased intelligence level in first-borns. The researchers chalked up the lesser time spent on nurturing second-born and subsequent children's cognitive skills to the increased demands on parents' time as they had more children.
What's interesting about the guidelines of the study is that the financial status and other background details of the families were carefully considered to avoid bias in the results. The 5,000 kids involved in the study that concluded first-borns are smarter were all from the United States.
6. Scientists Say First-Borns Earn More Than Peanuts
Although the study ended with the children when they reached age 14, the researchers asserted that the results of higher intelligence and educational achievement in childhood for first-borns strongly correlates to them earning higher incomes and doing better in careers than their younger siblings. Eldest child, former President (1997-1981) and Nobel Peace Prize winner (2002), Jimmy Carter, seems to prove their point.
Jimmy Carter's younger brother, Billy Carter, also fits the study's result that older children tend to be stronger achievers. Try as he might, Billy's attempts to succeed tended to result in failure more often than not, like his Billy Beer brand ultimately did. Still, he became very popular thanks to his brother's political spotlight shining on him...that is until Billy was involved in a scandal defending Libyan terrorists.
We feel ya, Jimmy. Don't you hate it when your younger, and apparently less bright, sibling embarrasses you?
The study included tracking whether mothers-to-be drank or smoked during pregnancy, which of course is never recommended as it can cause terrible damage to the growing fetus, including intellectual impairment. The researchers found that more mothers were likely to smoke or drink in second or later pregnancies than with the first one, which may also be connected to the study's results that first-borns are usually the smartest.
Since the researchers believe the higher IQ advantage shows up in first-borns as early as age one, it seems any time teaching infants is time well spent when it comes to supporting their intellectual growth. Hopefully, thanks to these study results, parents will manage to try to find time to engage in learning activities with their second-born and later born children as well.
Along with stronger overall general comprehension skills and higher abilities in math and reading, the scientists involved in this study assert that first-borns tend to hold more senior management jobs than younger siblings. What about kick ass warrior jobs?
Do the findings that the first-born child is smarter than his or her siblings mean that in families of more than two children that the last-born child will usually have the lowest IQ and achievements of all the kids? There seems to be no evidence out there of this. The study only noted that first-borns tend to achieve more and score higher on IQ tests than any siblings that follow them.
A key part of the study was IQ testing done every two years. It sure seems like a more thorough way of tracking individual intellectual development in the siblings rather than simply issuing one or two tests during the 14 years of the study.
As the researchers suggest a shift in parenting between how parents intellectually nurture their first-born compared to their other children, it would be ideal if parents had more time with their children as infants and beyond. Hopefully, going forward, parents will be able to carve out more time for learning activities to help their younger children keep up with the oldest intellectually.