Both stages of life are a time of significant developmental change. Toddlers and teens alike experience significant body and mind development that can have them behaving in ways you have never seen. But the thing is, that is what they need from us most of all; to understand. Imagine if your son came home from school after spending the day coping with peers calling him names and throwing his back pack on the toilet block roof.
The title of this article might trigger self-satisfied smiles among first-borns, and some concerns among the rest of us. We observe parents changing their behaviour as new children are born, and offering less cognitive stimulation to children of higher birth order.
Comparing two siblings, the greater the difference in their birth order, the greater the relative benefit to the older child.
We wondered where in childhood these differences began, and what the cause or causes might be. The study involved a longitudinal analysis of around 5, American children.
Our findings suggest that birth order differences can start before the age of three. We see an effect of birth order on measures of the physical and social development of children. Such differences increase slightly with age, and show up in a wide array of test scores that measure verbal, reading, math and comprehension abilities.
Thus, the birth order effect does not seem to be related to an obvious biological advantage at birth. Quality of parental investment is key We explored changes in parental behaviour as a potential contributor to the birth order effect.
We found that children of higher order of birth—that is, those born second, third or further on from the first child—receive less quality parental cognitive stimulation. They seem to make a difference. Furthermore, this shift in parental behaviour appears to start in the womb.
In pregnancies subsequent to their first, we found that mothers are less likely to reduce drinking and smoking or seek timely prenatal care. Once born, non-first-born babies are breastfed less often. Birth order does not shape your temperament Contrary to popular belief, we did not find that birth order is associated with differences in temperament, attachment or behavioural problems among siblings.
Regardless of birth position, we also found children to have the same overall self-confidence as teenagers. Also, we did not see any evidence that parents make any distinction in the emotional support provided to each of their children. Parental interaction aimed at ensuring appropriate emotional development does not diminish for younger siblings.
For most parents, it is probably not difficult to understand how and why parenting focus and behaviour changes with later-born children. Lessons from past experience and additional constraints on time, resources, and attention necessitate adjustments in attitudes and beliefs about what may be possible to accomplish as parents.
Parents may choose to relax some non-essential rearing needs for their later born children. These changes in parental behaviour appear to set later born children on a lower path for cognitive development and academic achievement, with lasting impact on adult economic outcomes. Regardless of where a child is positioned in terms of birth order, parents support emotional development in equal measure.
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