A recent MIT study has found that second-born children, especially boys, are more likely to get in trouble and engage in criminal activity.
Joseph Doyle, an economist at MIT, and his colleagues studied sets of data involving thousands of brothers in two completely different environments: Denmark and Florida.
The point of the study was to determine whether birth order affected the exhibition of delinquency behavior. Their definition of ‘delinquency behavior’ was “disciplinary actions and truancy at school, juvenile delinquency, and adult crime and imprisonment.”
Their findings of the study were consistent across the board, and the statistics quite shocking.
“Despite large differences in environments across the two areas, we find 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 authors wrote in a paper about the study.
Previous research has shown that first-borns tend to have higher IQs, earn more money, and perform better in schools; however, this was the first study done to specifically make a case that second-borns are more trouble prone.
So, why does birth-order have anything to do with troubled or criminal behavior?
One reason why second-born children, especially boys, tend to exhibit more delinquent behavior is the fact that they didn’t receive the doting attention that their older sibling received. Parents tend to shower their first-born with an overwhelming amount of attention. By the time the second child is born, they don’t receive that one-on-one focus.
Another reason is the ‘role model’ influence:
“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,” Doyle told NPR. “Both the parental investments are different, and the sibling influences probably contribute to these differences we see in the labor market and what we find in delinquency. It’s just very difficult to separate those two things because they happen at the same time.”
Of course, the study shows that most families will not encounter having a troublemaker in their family, however, keeping a good watch on your children is always a good idea. It should also be stated that the study focused mainly on boys; they found a much less significant difference among female siblings.
What do you think? Does birth order play a role in our lifelong behavior?
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