Sibling dynamics are fascinating things, and it’s not uncommon for the oldest child to put themselves in charge of their younger brothers and sisters. However, it’s not just age that gives them the advantage. According to research by the University of Edinburgh published in The Journal of Human Resources, first-born children are actually smarter than their little siblings for one important reason.
Higher intelligence can be seen in first-born children by the time they’re only a year old. The study found that the oldest child performed better on IQ tests by their first birthdays, which is pretty staggering. And while all children in participating families received the same level of emotional support and affection, they did differ in one important way.
As it turns out, first-born children are more intelligent because parents spent more time with them doing tasks that increased cognitive function, or “thinking skills.” The parents were extremely attentive to this development with their first child, but “changed their behavior as subsequent children were born.” That includes tasks like reading with the child, playing musical instruments, and completing craft projects.
Researchers also found that parents were willing to take more risks during subsequent pregnancies, such as smoking or drinking. How much that contributed to the intelligence differences, however, was not explored.
Having that little bit of extra attention during those first few years of life pays major dividends for first-born children, with their scores in reading, math, verbal, and comprehension tests appearing noticeably higher than those born later.
Of course, that’s not to say that being a middle child or even the youngest dooms the child to idiocy. However, it is an interesting observation. If only we could ensure all children in a family received that same level of interaction, we’d all be doing pretty well, don’t you think? Given that research has suggested that second-born children are more likely to be monsters, there may be something in this.