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.
Log in to post5 Comments

Hard to tell in my family. My half sister from my mother's side was 16 when I was born and out of the house (and married) by my oldest memories. My older half brother from my dad's side was raised by his mother.

So, technically I am an only child, as would be said about my two siblings, but my parents were also experienced, so I wasn't exactly a spoiled child.

Ok, according to my family this is all wrong. Depending on which side of our family I'm the youngest and the 2nd oldest. My mother has just 2 kids, my brother and I and my dad has 4 kids, my brother, me and my 2 younger sisters. My brother was the dreamer who broke all the rules while I was super focused and driven, even from a young age, to succeed. Even when I was little like 3 or 4 my parents have told me that I was always competing with my brother and I always had to do everything he did better. I made good grades, went to college, got married and I have 2 wonderful girls, an awesome husband and a great career. Mean while my brother has always worked odd jobs, he's been married twice and currently lives with a woman. That being said, I don't think badly of my brother, on the contrary I think he is a extraordinary person. He's kind, loving and artistic. This study is flawed. My oldest younger sister is very driven and focused and my youngest sister is only 7 so it is too early to tell what kind of person she will be.

Depends on how success is measured.
My oldest sybling demonstrated extraordinary resoursefulness, perserverance, in the face of difficult circumstances. And, actually did experience a resulting 'success', but the youngest exhibited the same attributes, and that 'success' was evidenced through great wealth and family. So...society says, the youngest was the successful one. Little recognition for the oldest's different kind of 'success'.
Article was good, but not a necessary read. Should have spent time reading something else.

A beautiful example of theory over experience. Fortunately, most parents do the hard work of finding out just who their children are and from that knowledge do what they can to encourage them and guide them.

People worry about buying breakfast and lunch for poor kids, while this guy gets paid for this?

With Generous Support From...