Out of all your kids, who gets the highest grades? Is Ate or Kuya? According to a a recent study, firstborn children are smarter than their siblings, and you may have had something to do with it, moms and dads.
Parents spend the most time developing the thinking skills of their eldest child, but they become more relaxed and take greater risks with their subsequent offspring, says the study published in the Journal of Human Resources.
For the study, economists from the University of Edinburgh examined data from 5,000 children from the time they were born until 14 years old. An assessment tool was used to look at parental behavior, and every two years the children were given IQ tests.
Even at age 1, results showed that firstborn kids were better than their younger siblings when it came to reading, math, verbal communication and general awareness, according to the BBC, with differences increasing slightly as the children grew older.
Why was this? It was down to the parents' change in behavior. All children received the same amount of emotional support from their parents. However, the eldest was given the most support when it came to tasks that involved thinking and problem-solving. The parents offered less mental stimulation to the younger siblings and spent less time with them engaging in activities like reading, crafts and playing musical instruments.
Not only that, after their first child, mothers took more risks during their pregnancy and are less likely to breastfeed. Parents were also more likely to smoke after the birth of their second child.
“For most, it is probably not difficult to understand how and why one’s parenting focus and abilities may change with his or her latter children,” Dr. Ana Nuevo-Chiquero, lead author of the study, told The Telegraph. “As the household gets bigger, time has to be split with younger children so they miss out on the advantage of being an only child for a time.”
“It doesn’t mean first-borns get more love, which stays the same. But they get more attention, especially in those important formative years,” she adds. “These broad shifts in parental behavior appear to set their latter-born children on a lower path for cognitive development and academic achievement with lasting impact on adult outcomes.”
It's hard to deny that, with a second or third child, parents are certainly more relaxed. Somehow the worry list becomes shorter; there are fewer thoughts of “am I doing this right?” With more experience, the anxiousness subsides.
No parent, however, would like to think that their zeal to their child's development will lessen when it comes to the kids after the eldest. So let us take study as a gentle reminder that we should treat each child's arrival, no matter how many kids we already have, as if we’re new parents again.
After all, when it comes to raising smart kids, the most influential factor in a child's academic achievement is a parent's inspiration and commitment, according to Freeman Hrabowski III, Ph.D., president of the University of Maryland and best-selling author on raising smart kids. “It makes such a difference when there’s someone in the house working to relate to that child and inspire that child,” explains Hrabowski.