Siblings have been rivals since time immemorial, since before the written word, since, if you believe the Bible, Cain murdered Abel with a rock and asked God himself if he was his brother’s keeper. Of course, as the older sibling, I have the grace and the perspective to see where all this conflict and squabbling stems from… namely the fact that my sister can’t accept that I’m clearly the best. If she could just get that into her head then all would be right with the world, right?
I’m joking of course, but you can’t deny that it seems to be that, traditionally speaking, the eldest child of the family always seems to have it best, while the younger siblings have to work harder to gain their birthrights. Think of all the sibling rivalries you see in pop-culture where the eldest comes out on top: Mario and Luigi, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, Alec Baldwin versus Daniel, William and Stephen. The list goes on.
But now, for the first time, it seems like the supremacy of the older sibling has been scientifically proven. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Edinburgh claims to have verified that the oldest child is always the smarter one – but is this legit? Or is this just baseless propaganda put about by elder brothers and sisters to discredit the babies?
Economists at the University of Edinburgh concluded that, on average, first-borns have a statistically higher IQ test score than their siblings – even before they can walk! Their findings, which have been published in the Journal of Human Resources, could help explain the so-called “birth order effect” – a psychological theory first expostulated by Alfred Adler in the early 20th century which suggests that older siblings in a family enjoy better wages and more education in later life due to differences in mental development between siblings.
The study, conducted in a collaboration the University of Sydney, examined data from the Longitudinal Survey of Youth collected by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. Almost 5,000 children were observed from prenatal development to adolescence in order to establish their family background and economic conditions.
Every two years the selected children were assessed on skills including reading and picture vocabulary. Analysing the results in relation to parental behaviour, they found first-borns were given more support with tasks that involve thinking, and subsequently scored better on the tests, which suggests that the first born kids receive more mental stimulation and support in developing cognitive skills from their parents during their early years, since they receive their parents undivided attention.
Commenting on her findings, Dr Ana Nuevo-Chiquero stated: “Our results suggest that broad shifts in parental behaviour are a plausible explanation for the observed birth order differences in education and labour market outcomes.” However, this does mean that there’s nothing intrinsically better about being born first – frankly it says more about your family’s parenting skills than anything else. At least the younger siblings among you can console yourselves with the fact that you’ve been proven to be the funniest.