Are you the oldest one in the family? Ever felt like you were wiser than your siblings and more rebellious? Well, there’s a scientific reason for that. According to a new study conducted by the University of Edinburgh, first borns have mental edge over their siblings. It’s something we have known for decades but now we have scientific proof to confirm. For years, science has been showing that the order of birth does play an important role in determining who we become.
Older siblings are smarter on average, while the youngest are healthier.
The study conducted by the University of Edinburgh took place over a period of 14 years. During the study, participants’ mental development, from birth all the way up until their teenage years, were analyzed along with the parenting habits of those who were responsible for bringing them up. Researchers closely followed 5,000 subjects until they were 14-years-old. Every two years, the participants in the study were assessed on categories including reading, vocabulary assessment and matching letters.
The outcome of the study showed that overall, first-born siblings exhibited a higher IQ at early ages, and also progressed faster at things like reading, letter-matching and picture vocabulary throughout their childhood years.
Scientists believe that this is due to ‘Birth Order Phenomenon’, where the first borns also land higher-paying jobs than their siblings. However, one of the most important thing the study revealed was that it was all dependent on the parents and how they treated their children. According to the study, parents were less likely to partake in mentally stimulating activities with their younger children, meaning they may not have developed the same thinking skills as the older sibling.
While activities required to develop thinking skills were lacking among parents and younger children, the study showed that parents shared their emotional support equally among siblings. Intellectually stimulating activities were higher with first-born kids during their formative years than with the second or third child.
“Our results suggests that broad shifts in parental behavior are a plausible explanation for the observed birth order differences in education and labor market outcomes,” Ana Nuevo-Chiquero, of the University of Edinburgh School of Economics, said in a statement.
At the same time, mothers are more likely to take health risks while pregnant with the second of third pregnancy as opposed to their first. (source)
Another study conducted by the University of Leipzig on 20,000 people from the UK, US and Germany concluded that personality is not affected by whether you were born first, last or in between. However, science does show that the order of birth does have an impact in several ways; one such determining how smart you are.
The Leipzig study also confirmed that firstborns tended to be slightly more intelligent than their younger siblings.
The study also confirmed that first-borns were more likely to agree with statements and understand things faster than their younger brothers and sisters. While it’s not clear as to why the first-borns have such an advantage, research suggests that this could be related to social status in the family rather than a biological change.
While first-borns do have an advantage in intelligence, younger ones have an advantage when it comes to health. Research conducted by Queen’s University Belfast found that those born second, third or later had a reduced risk of becoming diabetic compared with the first born child. The study suggests that it could be due to the fact that first-borns bring bacteria and viruses from various places, which the mother is then exposed to and builds immunity. When she becomes pregnant again, the immunity is passed on to the newborn. (source)
So, while the first-borns have an advantage in intelligence, the second or third or latter can be proud of the fact that they have a higher immunity than that of their older siblings.