This is always a fun topic for the Thanksgiving table. A new study confirms the findings of earlier studies: first born children have higher IQ’s and score better on tests than their siblings who follow, thanks to parents who are stricter, more focused and more attentive than they will be with the younger children.
“They do better because they get more parental attention,” says family therapist Mary Jo Rapini. “But just because you get more parenting doesn’t mean you get more parenting.”
The effect of birth order, and what causes the differences, is probably the most studied area of child psychology. Alfred Adler, who was a contemporary of Freud, wrote that first borns are socially dominant, most inclined to be conscientious, and score best on IQ tests. He found they are also prone to perfectionism and people-pleasing.
“For parents with their first born they have something to prove. Like this is their first baby and so they have to have the right stroller, and the right crib, and the right school. But after a while they learn that the child comes with a certain amount of intelligence on their own and you can kind of let go a little bit,” Rapini tells KTRH News.
An interesting footnote to history: half of all U.S. presidents were first borns. Albert Einstein was a first born. Steve Jobs was a first born.
Bill Gates was not. Thomas Jefferson was not. Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of 17 children. So if you were not a first born, don’t fret. All is not lost. You’re in good company.
“When you see these studies they’re comparing it to someone who children every two years or even every year, and the parents are going to be much more attentive and present for the first one, rather than the third or fourth. However if you space your children four-and-a-half or more years apart each child is getting individual parenting again; it’s almost like they start over again as with a first born. And they have more attention from the parents, and the parents are stricter and more engaged,” Rapini says.
The one thing all researchers agree on – make every child feel loved, special, and the best, and the rest will take care of itself.