Second-Born Children Are More Likely To Be Rebellious, According To Science

Listen up, second-borns!
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Second-born children have long been believed to be the troublemakers in the family. And now, there’s scientific evidence to back up that theory.

According to a study by MIT economist Joseph Doyle, second-born children are indeed more likely to exhibit rebellious behavior. And that goes double for second-born boys.

"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 told NPR.

But, this bad behavior may, in fact, be the fault of their older siblings as younger siblings tend to model their behavior.

"The firstborn has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational two-year-olds, you know, their older siblings," Doyle added.

To come to his conclusion, Doyle analyzed data sets from families in both Denmark and the state of Florida. And, as he wrote, despite the large differences in geographic area and environments, the findings were “remarkably consistent results.”

“In families with two or more children, 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. The data allow us to examine a range of potential mechanisms, and the evidence rules out differences in health at birth and the quality of schools chosen for children.”

Doyle added that much of this is due to the fact that parents spend just a bit more time on first-borns than they do on seconds.

“We do find that parental time investment measured by time out of the labor force is higher for first-borns at ages 2-4, suggesting that the arrival of a second-born child extends early-childhood parental investments for first-borns,” he wrote.

But, there’s no reason to lose hope if you’re the second child. You do, after all, still have free will. And, hey, at least you can now use science to blame your big brother or sister for your bad behavior.


All Topics in Behavioral Development


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