There are many familiar stereotypes about birth order: the eldest can be a bully and in conflict with the youngest, while the middle child is often the peacemaker, and so on.
But a new study conducted by the University of Liepzig in Germany, has found that birth order does not affect personality development.
The subjects of the study were 20,000 participants from the U.S., U.K., and Germany, whose personalities were examined — whether they were extroverted, neurotic, etc.
Researchers also found that older siblings are slightly smarter than their younger sibling, who, in turn, are smarter than the siblings born after them.
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Older siblings were also perceived to be more confident about their intellectual capacity. They were also more open about their superior ability to grasp abstract ideas and concepts as well as possessing a richer, wider vocabulary.
The cause for this, however, was not exactly determined; but, if previous research is taken into account, this may most likely be due to the first-born child’s status in the family. Being the eldest can foster a stronger sense of self, thus encouraging more confidence and willingness to learn.
The same study found that the level of intelligence cannot be attributed to some biological development that occurs in utero.
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The eldest may be smarter, but the youngest is healthier
Another interesting finding of the aforementioned study is the link between health and birth order. Taking into account the data from previous research, researchers further confirmed that first-born children are more at risk for developing Type 1 Diabetes as opposed to siblings who are born after them.
This predisposition to developing Diabetes could possibly be the result of biological changes while in the womb or after birth, like being exposed to infections early on in life.
Older siblings often transmit infections they got from their classmates to their younger siblings when they come home.
But, according to researchers, this makes them less prone to autoimmune diseases because it stimulates their immune system. Having a stronger capacity to fight off diseases makes them less at risk for conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes.
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The research also touched upon the much debated cause for sexual orientation. It posits that men with older brothers most likely grow up realizing they are gay. This is said to be attributed to the “older brother phenomenon” wherein the likelihood of a child being gay is increased with each older male sibling he has.
Further digging is needed to cement these findings, as with all developing studies. But it is interesting for parents to know how children’s birth order not only shapes their identity but their lives as well.
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