Sibling rivalry is one of longest standing rivalries in human history. Whatever your birth order might be, it is likely that you have spent much of your own life trying to prove to your parents, your peers, and yourself how much better you are than your other siblings. It could take a lifetime to feel that you have sufficiently proven yourself to be better, faster, or stronger; but what if there was one thing you could always determine based strictly on your birth order? According to the scientific community there just might be. As if first-born children did not already have enough bragging rights, numerous studies spanning over many decades have shown that first-born children are likely to be of greater intelligence than their younger sibling counterparts.
There are several universal personality traits that first-born children share that is unique to their specific birth order. Positive traits that are associated with first-born children are strong leadership skills, driven and ambitious, loyal, well respected, and scholarly. Negative traits associated with first-born children are in constant need for approval, people pleasers, perfectionists, do not like being told what to do, tendency to overachieve, and can be selfish with their time and attention of themselves or others. First-born children make up half of the United States Presidents. 21 out of 23 of the first astronauts were also the first-born children. 2/3 of entrepreneurs are children who were born first. It is clear to see that first-born children like to aim high and achieve the impossible, but is birth order really the main reason first-born children are so successful?
When a parent is new they often want to do everything “perfect” or “right”. This means a greater investment in attention to what the child is doing, how the child is being mentally stimulated, as well as a financial investment into the child’s physical health and well-being. First-born children have the fortune of receiving the full time and attention of parents and extended family members. This means that they receive total and constant stimulation, admiration, and adoration from multiple sources. This complete and undivided attention received during their early formative years is what aides in developing the lifetime positive and negative traits often associated with first-born children such as, their constant need for approval or their extreme drive to achieve success. The common trait of scholarly ability in first-born children is likely due in part because of both the undivided attention and resources a family is able to provide. As the family grows in numbers time, attention, and resources become increasingly scarce.
In one such study conducted by a scientist named Sulloway, they examined the link between birth order and intelligence level. They found that first-born children performed better on psychometric intelligence tests, which corresponded to a higher level of intellect when compared to their later-born counterparts who took the same tests. Sulloway’s findings also noted that first-borns showed a higher level of conscientiousness. He hypothesized their increased level of conscientiousness was a result of first-born children often being delegated to act as surrogate parents to their younger siblings. This also instills a certain level of maturity and responsibility first-born children will carry with them well into adulthood. First-born children often regard themselves as quick to understand things in comparison to their younger, later-born siblings. They likely identify with this trait because while they may have had the attention of their parents, they likely spent much of their time socializing through the use of reading or playing alone with toys and games that provided cognitive stimulation. In other words, first-born children had to figure out most things on their own without the help of a slightly older peer. First-born children are also more likely to be referenced in public and private settings as an adult sooner than their later-born siblings. This means that they are exposed to adult language, context, and vocabulary at a much earlier age resulting in better language and vocabulary comprehension. Since later-born siblings are often left in the care of their older siblings or first-born sibling, they are therefore only exposed to the language, context, and vocabulary level of their older sibling. A first-born sibling is likely to be both the part-time caretaker to a later-born sibling, as well as the acting tutor to the younger, later-born sibling as well. The act of teaching has been shown to assist first-born children with increased cognition level as they learn to process information.
Even though it is impossible to completely recreate the parental experience with each new child, it is important to remember that there are ways to prevent intelligence gaps based on birth order alone. By investing the same amount of time in your later-born children as you did with your first-born child you can close the intelligence and cognitive gaps often associated with birth order; reading aloud, providing stimulating games and toys, positive attention, and showing excitement towards later-born children and their achievements can have a positive impact in their mental and cognitive development. Even if you are the youngest or later-born sibling in the family just remember that ½ of the United States presidents are later-born children, 2 of the first 23 astronauts were later-born children, and 1/3 of later-born children are successful entrepreneurs. Your birth order does not have to completely rule or dictate your success in life.