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Study Says Firstborns Are Smarter — Is It True?

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Updated March 2, 2017
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So much for sibling rivalry, kids — a new study reveals that moms and dads believe that their firstborns have higher IQs and perform better in school than their siblings. And as a middle child with a serious slew of issues (JK, mom!), I take personal offense to this. But, the proof, I hate to admit, lies in the proverbial educational pudding.

Firstborns, study authors V. Joseph Hotz and Juan Pantano, from the National Bureau of Economic Research, found, are also considered to be more accomplished in mom and dads eyes — and it’s all due to the fact that  parents are typically harder on the first child  when compared to younger kids (the inner competitive nerd in me is melting as I type these words). One-third of the moms surveyed — 33.8 percent — backed up the scientific findings by claiming that yes, their firstborn babe is “one of the smartest in the class.” Only 1.8 percent of moms put their children at the bottom of the class.

The surprising (and almost insulting) fact comes from moms with more than one child: Researchers noted that more moms consider their second- or third-born baby to be less intelligent when compared to the first. Surprisingly, 31.8 percent of moms felt that their second-born was best in their class, while 29 percent felt that their third-born was best. But here’s the real kick in the pants for second and third kids: More moms were willing to rate their kids as bottom-of-the-class performers, at 2.1 and 3.6, respectively.

So, what gives?

According to the research, parents are much more likely to raise their firstborns strictly and to loosen up as they welcome more kids to the mix. Researchers also noted that younger children are less likely to be punished for bad marks (though there was no specification on how children were punished). And the study’s findings (though I cringe to admit it), are in-line with recent research that supports the theory that performance declines with birth order. Younger kids admit they don’t feel as much parental-pressure as their eldest sibling to perform well in school.

Hotz and Pantano attribute the changes to parental involvement: They say that parents are more involved with their firstborns academic performance, as well as more likely to use stricter rules and punishments. And what the research doesn’t say (but so blatantly implies) is that mom and dad take a backseat to their second, third and fourth born babies.

Do you agree? Do you think your firstborn is smartest?

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