In almost every case, there is what many would call a cliché stereotype about the behavior of the children according to their birth order. If it’s the first child that usually makes the rules, the second will most likely be the reason behind those rules, and will often try to break them.
So, is this stereotype true? An MIT study says yes.
When it comes to the first-born children, it has been found that they possess a stronger sense of responsibility and an IQ higher than the rest of their siblings. And the second child? It has been found that they are indeed the troublemakers.
Done in collaboration between researchers from MIT, University of Florida, and several other universities, the study focused on the link between delinquency and birth order. After analyzing tens of thousands of sets of siblings in the state of Florida and Denmark, they concluded that second-born children are indeed more prone to juvenile delinquency and criminal adulthood.
The results were consistent in both the settings where they studied the pairs of siblings, despite the obvious cultural and environmental differences. They showed that compared to first-borns, the second-born children were 20%-40% more likely to get suspended in school, enter juvenile delinquency, or even end up in prison.
However, in an interview for Morning Edition, NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam notes that although there is a sizable difference when it comes to delinquency and birth order, only about 1 in 10, or 1 in 20 of children end up in serious trouble.
The research focuses on boys, rather than girls, as it’s generally more likely for boys to end up in serious trouble, especially during their teenage years. However, this doesn’t exclude the possibility of a rebellious second-born daughter, and here’s why:
It all comes down to parenting and role models
And there is little a parent can do to influence these nuances differently.
Even if parents try to be consistent in their parenting habits, there are subtle differences in these habits when it comes down to birth order. Additionally, the role models of the children differ greatly when the first-born is compared to the second-born child.
While firstborn children receive the undivided attention from their parents, the second-born child will have to compete for this attention with their older sibling. And the easiest way to do so is by acting out and causing trouble.
Which is more, it’s not only their older sibling second-born children need to compete with. Parents don’t usually take as much time off work as they did with their first-born child. With their increased responsibilities and careers, parents don’t give the younger child a lot of choice but to compete for attention against all those factors.
Another factor which plays a role in the way children construct their behavior is their choice of role models.
While the first-born child will be limited to regarding adults and their parents as role models, this is not the case with the second-born children. Instead, their role model will be their older sibling, resulting in looking up to the irrational 2-year-olds.
But as Vedantam notes, the research “is painting a broad picture. It doesn’t describe what’s happening in every single family.” It’s not like every second-born child will become a criminal. However, it does suggest that these children will always be a bit more on the wild side – which sometimes can be very good!
In the end, how can you revise outdated rules if there is nobody there to challenge them in the first place?
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) – http://www.mit.edu/~jjdoyle/BDFK_Delinquency.pdf- Birth Order and Delinquency