Parents seem to know instinctively that their children’s birth order affects their development. Anecdotes abound about the responsible firstborn, the attention-hungry last born and the “invisible” middle child. Most people can usually point to some
An MIT economist named Joseph Doyle recently released findings that indicate that your second born child is much more likely than their older sibling, in fact in some instances up to 40% more likely, to get wrapped up in some pretty bad stuff. Doyle’s team studied data from tens-of-thousands of families from Florida and the country of Denmark. The study focused mainly on second born boys since they seem to be the ones most likely to get suspended from school, commit juvenile crimes and eventually end up in prison.
Don’t Panic, They’re not all Bad
Before you start taking immediate steps to enroll your middle son in military school, take comfort from the fact that the results of the study indicate that only a small percentage of boys with an older sibling, maybe lower than 10%, will exhibit any extreme negative traits. That’s definitely encouraging news to parents who wonder what effects birth order might have on their own kids. By understanding some of the possible reasons for adverse outcomes in middle children, parents can take steps to mitigate the factors and help all of their offspring develop normally.
- Peer Groups: Often, first born and second born siblings will have different playmates. Perhaps unconsciously, parents will sometimes put more care into selectively screening whom they allow their firstborn to play with on a daily basis. The standards of the quality of friends can be lower for the younger sibling.
- Behavior Models: Parents typically act as the primary role model for their firstborn sons. When the next child comes along, they have their still immature older sibling as an additional example of behavior.
- Attention Levels: Younger siblings, especially second born ones, have to compete for parental attention and resources. Firstborn children usually have the luxury of more focused and undivided parental interaction.
No one is sure if these are the only factors involved or to what extent they can combine to produce negative behavior. The researchers readily admit that unknowns remain that studies of this type cannot root out. However, now that social science is aware of the potential for problems, research can focus on the primary causes.
Help Your Second Born Adapt
Now that you realize that your second-born may require a little special effort on your part to succeed in life, you can take some actions to help your middle child overcome. By following a few basic guidelines, you and your child will likely have an easier time.
- Remember they are separate people – When the second child comes along, the parenting dynamics can quickly change and devolve into lumping your children together. Continue giving each child attention and respect as an individual human being.
- Don’t freak out over some rebelliousness – Middle kids tend to get ignored, so they can sometimes act outrageously to get attention. Try to channel this tendency in a positive direction by encouraging them to express their individuality in positive, even if slightly edgy, ways.
- Set aside time just for them – When you only had one kid it was easy to spend time alone with him or her. Now, with two it takes a little more planning and effort, so you have to make it a priority.
- Celebrate achievements – Don’t overlook or minimize your middle child’s accomplishments. Make a big deal out of every one of them as you did for your firstborn. Remember, it is no longer a new experience for you, but it is to him. Take lots of photos!
- Talk about it – Let your middle child know that he faces some struggles that his older sibling didn’t have to overcome. Just knowing that you understand and care can go a long way in helping him to adjust and adapt to being the one in the middle.
Parents almost universally want their children to grow up normally and have happy fulfilled lives. Sometimes, for whatever reason, this is not possible for everyone. Having a better understanding of uncontrollable circumstances such as birth order and their potential effects on your children’s outcome can help you do a better job of raising them.