Second-Born Children Are More Likely To Be Total Nightmares, Science Says

Dealing with kids is tough and parenting isn’t for everyone, but if you do decide to become a mom (or dad) and you have multiple kids, watch out for your second-born. According to a recent study by MIT, the bundle of joy you give birth to after your first is more likely to turn into a total nightmare.

Second-born kids are troublemakers for life. The study collected data from thousands of families in the US and Denmark and the takeaway was clear: second-born kids like to raise hell. And unfortunately, this trait isn’t something they tend to grow out of—their behavior tends to go with them throughout their lives, no matter how old they get.

Boys are even worse. All second-born children have an increased likelihood of being little monsters, but it happens more with boys. According to the study findings, “second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings.”

It might be down to second-born kids getting less attention. It makes sense. A lot of parents are downright obsessed with their first-born child because parenthood is a new experience. By the time you get around to having another kid, the newness has worn off a bit and you’re less uptight and therefore sometimes less attentive. “We consider differences in parental attention as a potential contributing factor to the gaps in delinquency across the birth order,” the researchers explained. “Second-born children tend to have less maternal attention than do their older siblings because first-born children experience their mother’s maternity leaves and temporarily reduced labor market participation both following their own births as well as following the birth of the second-born.”

It could also come down to who their role models are. While first-born children or only children tend to have adults as role models, younger siblings like to look up to their older ones for guidance and advice in life. And, given that their older sibling likely isn’t mature enough and doesn’t have enough life experience to give great advice, they don’t have the best influences. As study author Joseph Doyle said in an interview with NPR, “The firstborn has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings.”

There is something parents can do about it. It’s not as if bad behavior is hard-wired into second-born children. These findings are largely circumstantial, meaning if parents are aware of these tendencies, they can take action early to give more attention and discipline to keep it from happening.

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