Are secondborn kids more likely to become troublemakers?

Does the order of birth matter? Is it true what they say, that secondborn children are more likely to be the troublemakers of the family?

Let’s find out!

It’s no secret that being the firstborn can be quite challenging. You are no longer the only kid in the family. There is someone you also need to take care of and be responsible for. You can no longer get all the attention you need from your parents, and that could feel so unfair. But no matter how much this new tiny member of the family gets on your nerves, you love them with all your heart.

However, loving them can be truly difficult, especially when they turn into little devilish rascals. So, is there a scientific explanation why so many secondborns become real nerve-triggering troublemakers?

In 2017, the Professor of Management and Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Joseph Doyle, conducted a study looking through the significance of birth order. In the study, the professor worked with siblings from two entirely different areas with significantly contrasting cultures – the state of Florida and the country of Denmark.

Although the two locations have large environmental differences, Doyle and his colleagues found “remarkably consistent results”. According to their findings, secondborn children are indeed more challenging. For instance, secondborn boys are more likely to be rebellious than the rest of their siblings.

The research states that secondborn boys are 20%–40% more likely to get in trouble at school and even with the law enforcement authorities.

In an interview with NPR, Joseph Doyle said:

“I find the results to be remarkable that the second-born children, compared to their older siblings, are much more likely to end up in prison, much more likely to get suspended in school, enter juvenile delinquency.”

Doyle believes that while the firstborn children have their parents as role models, the secondborns are often following their older siblings’ steps.

Shankar Vedantam, NPR’s Social Science Correspondent, explains that Doyle’s study concentrates on negative aspects, including “violent crime, delinquency, school suspensions”. Vedantam notes that the research mainly focuses on boys, as they are “much more likely than girls to end up in serious trouble in their teenage years”.

The science correspondent also mentions that as the study compares older against younger brothers, the “family environment” for both children remains the same:

“Now, because you’re comparing older brothers against younger brothers, you can assume the family environment for both kids is more or less constant… The researchers find consistent evidence when it comes to crime and delinquency.”

As a possible explanation for the likelihood of secondborns to become troublemakers, Vedantam reckons the effect of “parental time and investment”. 

The science journalist confirms the theory that firstborn children get the full attention of their parents, while secondborns need to compete for their parents’ love, time, and affection.

However, he insists on the fact that every single bond between siblings is unique, and these findings may not apply to every family.

“This research, of course, is painting a broad picture. It doesn’t describe what’s happening in every single family.”

Do you have a younger brother or sister? Do you think secondborn kids have more potential to cause trouble than their older siblings? Share your experience and thoughts with us in the comment section!

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