First Children Are Smarter, New Study May Reveal Why

First children tend to do better in school than their siblings. In a new study, economists V. Joseph Hotz and Juan Pantano say that this is because parents are found to give their first-born children better parenting and more attention than later offspring. This, they argue, is why international surveys have consistently found first children to have higher IQs and better school grades than their younger siblings.

The study is a collaboration between economists V. Joseph Hotz from Duke University and Juan Pantano from Washington University in St. Louis. They looked at data from a survey of mothers and made some fascinating discoveries: Mothers are more likely to view those who come after the first children as less successful, according to The Atlantic. With limited data, they found that in most cases, these later children tended to get poorer grades in school than the first-born.

Why does this happen? The study’s authors say that with first children, moms and dads are usually much stricter than they are with the children they have later. The study shows that mothers may put more effort into helping their first children manage their time (like placing firm bed times, or limiting television watching).

As the paper itself explains, however, this seems to be tied to parental views of how successful their children are. Most mothers, the researchers say, reported that they would watch their child’s use of time more closely if they were to bring home lower grades than expected. As first children were viewed as more successful, they would be more likely to be subject to more monitoring from parents.

It might be easy to conclude that parents simply get “burnt out” or lazy about child rearing, but it is more complex than that. More than anything, it is the parents’ perceptions of their children that influences behavior. Perhaps, as parents have more kids, their expectations become more modest and tempered by experience.

Maybe if parents could hold all of their children to the same strict standards as their first children, all of them would be equally successful in school and have higher IQs? Readers, why do you think parents tend to be more relaxed with their later children? Do you think the researchers are right to say that this affects later offspring negatively?

[Image via ShutterStock]

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