That’s what studies have been telling us for decades: Older children tend to have higher IQs than their younger brothers and sisters — anywhere from one to three points. It’s a small difference but a significant one, scientists say, one that can mean the difference between a good and a great school, a good and a great career.
But what accounts for this? The latest studies — from the universities of Houston, New South Wales and Sheffield, published in an article on the Independent’s website, independent.co.uk — suggest that parents spend more time stimulating their first-born intellectually. (This would seem a no-brainer as anyone who has ever been a kid with siblings knows that parents hover over number one. By the time the third kid comes along, it’s “What was your name again?”)
Older children also benefit educationally from being the ones, more than their parents even, who put the kid sibs wise. And you know the old saying: Teachers learn from their students. They may even learn more than their students.
WAG would like to offer its own humble theory. Perhaps older children — who tend to be responsible, structured parental companions and echoes — are simply better at taking standardized tests.
These alone, however, are not predictors of life and career success. Strapped with parental expectations, older children also tend to be more neurotic and less risk-taking. It’s the younger sibs who are more adventurous, which can lead to transcendent discoveries.
As birth order expert Frank J. Sulloway — a visiting scholar at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley — told The New York Times in an article on a 2007 study, it can mean the difference “between every-year or every-decade creativity and every-century creativity, between innovation and radical innovation.”