Understanding the unique experience of growing up with siblings is challenging if you haven't lived it. Growing up in a home with multiple children tends to change the way that people interact with one another.
There are sibling stereotypes that many people still believe ring true. For instance, the youngest sibling is always "the favorite." Middle child syndrome is when the middle-born feels ignored and undervalued, and the firstborn is the oldest and therefore wisest. According to new research, the stereotype about the firstborn being the wisest might not be far off.
Sibling Dynamics Are Similar Across Households
In case you can't quite picture the weird sibling dynamic that happens with 3+ kids in a home, TikTok user @tj_therrien created an entire hilarious (and relatable) series to detail some of the common stereotypes associated with each child.
In this viral clip, the firstborn is meticulously building lego blocks, while the middle child chaotically struggles to organize the blocks, and the youngest child completely destroys the model altogether — but don't worry, they won't get in trouble.
Older Siblings Will Tell You They're Smarter - But Are They Actually?
An older sibling is sort of like your bully and protector all in one complex human. Being the eldest sibling in my own family, I can confirm that from the moment a younger sibling is born, we fully convince ourselves that they were brought into the world to both serve and entertain us.
We will spend the majority of our childhood bragging that since we're older, we are inherently smarter and therefore should be respected and listened to. Even though we're mostly running our mouths, it turns out that there's actually evidence to support the idea that firstborn children perform better academically.
Research Says Firstborns Perform Better Academically
Researchers have documented a significant link between firstborn children and increased academic and intellectual success. The team studied data from children in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and published their findings in The Journal of Human Resources.
The research team developed surprising theories as to why first-born children perform better on academic tests.
Eldest Siblings Are Better Set Up For Academic Success
The research team studied 4850 children from the survey and assessed them every two years from the time they were in the womb to age 14.
They discovered that eldest siblings are better set up to be successful academically because of the parenting they receive.
Parents Spend More Time Intellectually Stimulating Firstborns
Researcher Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann said that: "First-time parents tend to want to do everything right and generally have a greater awareness of their interactions with and investments in the firstborn."
"With each subsequent child, parents tend to relax to a greater extent what they might deem as non-essential needs for their kids," Lehmann says.
Parents Are Less Likely To Provide New And Engaging Toys For Later-Born Children
Parents certainly provide the same amount of physical care and love to all of their children. However, the study reveals that the firstborn receives the most mental stimulation and that families are usually unable to maintain the same level for subsequent kids.
Parents spend less time doing activities with later-born children like reading and learning the alphabet. They are also less likely to buy and provide new engaging toys and learning tools, especially if they still have old ones.
Firstborn Children Are More Confident In Their Academic Abilities
Additional children in the family add new challenges with time management, resources, and dividing attention. This causes families to adjust their approach to parenting, whether it's conscious or not. Sometimes the responsibility of early education falls to older siblings.
The study says that this finding did not have an impact on a child's personality or temperament, except that firstborn children were generally more confident in their abilities, particularly academic ones.
Later-Born Children Performed Worse On Cognitive Assessments
Though the shift in parenting did not have a direct impact on a child's personality, the study did find that there was a significant effect on a child's thinking skills. This was evidenced by later-born children performing worse on cognitive assessments from birth to age 14.
The research team found these effects to last long into adulthood.
Women Are Less Likely To Cut Alcohol Intake With Subsequent Pregnancies
The research team also analyzed the behavior of expectant mothers and found that women were less likely to eliminate their alcohol intake with subsequent pregnancies.
Additionally, the mothers sought out prenatal care later in their pregnancies and were less likely to breastfeed after giving birth. The researchers suggest this is a reflection of: "broad shifts in maternal attitudes and investments towards the first child and their later-born children."
The Types Of Investments You Make In Your Children Matter A Lot
"The lesson here for parents is that the types of investments that you make in your kids matter a lot, especially those that you make in the children's first few years of life," researcher Lehmann said.
“All those learning activities that you did with your first child as excited, nervous, and over-zealous parents actually seem to have some positive, long-lasting impact on their development.”