Eldest children are smarter, more successful: Study

A new study claims that eldest children are the smartest and highest-achieving in families, partly because parents are able to spend more time with them. 

Joseph Hotz, a professor at Duke, authored the study and says the research shows that parents behave differently with their first child. Disciplining them more than other children.

“They’re more harsh with their oldest children. They want to influence their younger children,” said Hotz.

Hotz says greater monitoring of first born children is the sticking point in the study.  He says this is why younger children are more prone to do poorly in school and engage in bad behaviour. Hotz says second- and third-born kids should not feel like they are predestined for failure.  He says the data is indicative of the fact that parents have a role in how they treat children of different age groups.  He says although there is a pattern showing first borns do better, that is not a natural thing that just happens.

“I’m the third-born of a family of five. I don’t feel like I’m destined to certain outcomes,” said Hotz. 

Hotz says that although data shows that first-borns are more successful, there is still a big individual component to what people do that’s not birth-order specific. He says this study shows that a big contributing factor to the trend is the parental direction of most families.

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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