Life
Study settles age-old argument about determining which sibling’s “the smartest”
Younger siblings might want to cover their ears for this.
Harper Gillis
11.07.23

It turns out that the pecking order in your family might just have a say in how sharp you are.

Research has consistently shown that the eldest sibling often holds the intellectual edge.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pattern that’s been observed time and again.

Scientists are in consensus on one thing: parental love doesn’t play favorites; it’s equally showered on all kids, from the baby of the family to the firstborn.

However, it’s the other elements that shape a child’s intellect and behavior, and these factors are where the differences lie.

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Delving into why the firstborns often lead the pack in smarts, we find some fascinating insights.

A study in the Journal of Human Resources highlighted that firstborns have a knack for scoring higher on IQ tests compared to their younger siblings.

This study, which tracked 5,000 children from birth until the age of 14, was a joint effort by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sydney.

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The study’s findings were quite revealing: not only do firstborns start off with a cognitive edge, but this advantage also tends to grow as they age, solidifying by the time they start school.

It seems that the intellectual gap between the eldest and the younger siblings doesn’t just stay; it expands.

Researchers didn’t just stop at the “what”; they looked into the “why” of this intelligence disparity.

It appears that with their first child, parents pull out all the stops.

There’s more mental and physical engagement, including more activities.

First-time parents are also more cautious, avoiding smoking or drinking to protect their newborn.

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As families grow, however, the intensity of these early-childhood regimens often wanes.

It’s not a matter of love diminishing but rather a sense of having been through it all before.

This leads to a more relaxed approach with the subsequent kids.

It’s worth noting, though, that this isn’t a universal truthβ€”some parents maintain the same level of vigilance for all their children.

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But IQ isn’t the only thing birth order influences; it also shapes personality.

Typically, eldest children exhibit stronger leadership qualities, ambition, and responsibility.

Middle children are the negotiators, the ones who find middle ground, while the youngest tend to be the charmers, the creatives, and sometimes, the manipulators.

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The study isn’t an isolated case.

It echoes the findings of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which followed teens and young adults to track their employment, income, and education.

The survey aimed to see if there was a pattern linking birth order with success later in life.

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Both studies converge on the idea that eldest children often end up being the smartest and most successful, landing leadership roles and earning more.

However, this doesn’t mean younger siblings are destined for less; these are trends, not destinies.

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