10 Significant Studies About Being the Oldest Child

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Does your place in the family structure affect who you are? There are plenty of stereotypes about the firstborn child in the family. People tend to think of them as superior, smart, confident and high achievers, but are these common traits or is this just a common misperception? Scientists and researchers have studied the affects of birth order on human development for years. You can draw your own conclusions from these 10 significant studies about being the oldest child.

  1. National Longitudinal Study of Youth – This study published in the Economical Journal has found that the oldest child often has a tougher time growing up. Parents tend to discipline their firstborn more and have higher expectations for them while being more lenient with their younger siblings.
  2. Explaining the Relation Between Birth Order and IntelligenceScience has studied about a quarter million people and concluded that the oldest child in a family has a slightly higher IQ than their younger siblings. There are many factors that seem to influence this phenomenon including family environment and upbringing, but also biological effects.
  3. Dr. Per Smiseth study on burying beetle – This biologist from the University of Edinburgh has done extensive research on the Nicrophorus vespilloides or burying beetle. He claims that his studies help us understand the basic principles of how family relationships work and show a biological tendency for parents to favor their firstborn.
  4. The Power of Birth Order – Time Magazine explores the effects of birth order on all siblings including the oldest child. They site the IQ advantage or firstborn siblings plus biological observations in other species regarding survival of the fittest.
  5. Birth Order – Frank J. Sulloway is one of the leading authorities on birth order research. In this study he notes that firstborn children are favored over their younger siblings in a variety of ways. They’re more likely to be named after their parents and inherit property plus marry and have children.
  6. Birth Order, Sibling Competition and Human Behavior – In another study, Sulloway uses a Darwinian approach and concludes that firstborns who tend to act as surrogate parents are more conscientious than laterborns. He also states that the oldest child is more likely to be more extroverted and assertive.
  7. The Birth Order Book – This book by Dr. Kevin Leman depicts the oldest sibling as being the guinea pig of the family. Parents make all their mistakes with the first child as they hone their parenting skills. Since the firstborns are held to higher standards they tend to be reliable, conscientious, list makers and natural leaders.
  8. Birth Order, Educational Attainment and Earnings – Another study by Jasmin Kantarevic and Stéphane Mechoulan indicates that firstborn children are more likely to benefit from the allocation of limited resources in the family. The oldest child often gets a better education and thus has a better chance of a successful career.
  9. Birth Order and Personality in the Workplace – Being the oldest can even affect your personality in the workplace according to this study by Ben Dattner, Phd. He concludes that firstborns support the status quo represented by their parents and later born siblings. They tend to be more task-oriented, conscientious and disciplined at work.
  10. Birth Order Effects in the Formation of Long-term Relationships – The Hartshorne study examines the effects of birth order on long-term relationships. Since the oldest child is usually more responsible and dependable, they may be more likely to sustain relationships longer than younger siblings.

Some people read these birth order studies like they do horoscopes. Although your position in the family may have an effect on your personality and behavior, each individual reacts differently. Being the oldest child doesn’t necessarily make you smarter or more responsible than your siblings. It may be wise to be a bit skeptical about all these studies, especially the one that compares people to bugs. Firstborn children have both advantages and disadvantages in the family structure and need to make the best of their unique situation.

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