For the majority of my childhood, everyone compared me to my older sister. In my thirties, this hasn't changed much, but since our lives are so vastly disparate from one another, it's much more an apples and oranges comparison. As the second-born child, the expectations my parents had for me weren't the same as the ones they had for my sister. Second-born children have different experiences that shape who they become and how they behave. In celebration of our inherent differences from our other siblings, here are seven surprising facts about second-born children that may change the way you think about your younger kids.
Birth order dynamics have long fascinated researchers. Developmental psychologists, pediatricians, and even economists have weighed in on the importance of birth order on the long-term health and welfare of children. Whether you're looking to determine who in the family will likely be the most combative, or who will do the best in school, there's definitely been a study completed on that subject.
And it's no wonder there's so much interest, given the fact that some of the biggest world-changers are second-born. Everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Bill Gates to Jennifer Lopez are second-born (and also middle) children. But how did their birth order shape who they became?
1. They Are Under More Educational Stress
A study published in the Journal of Population Economics found that second-born children are often held to a higher educational standard than their older siblings. This is often due to an older child's low performance in school, and the parents' desire to improve the educational outcome of the next child. Therefore, the parents place a higher burden on the second-born children than the first, providing them with more attention and oversight.
2. They're Given More Autonomy... At Least At First
If you have two or more kids, you already know what this one is about. With the first, you're on that kid like white on rice. You monitor everything they do down to the tiniest detail. By the second kid, you're more laid back, relaxed. "Hey, it's not going to kill them," is the mantra of parenting the second child, and kids just might be more resilient for it. Research published in the Journal of Adolescence suggested that second-born kids have much more autonomy than first borns. That is, until the first borns can truly take care of themselves and the parents don't have anywhere else to put their energy... so it goes right back into the second-born, taking away that surplus of autonomy.
Or if you're the middle child, you just kind of get lost in the shuffle, which is the best of both worlds.
3. They're More Likely To Misbehave — Especially Boys
In a study from 2017 titled "Birth Order and Delinquency," (rude) researchers found that yes, we second borns tend to stir the pot a bit more than the other kids, especially boys. But hey, we're just looking for a little bit of attention, and if that means that we're going to have to bust a few vases or perhaps lose a diamond anniversary band, then so be it. (Sorry, Mom.)
4. They Are Not As Favored As Older Siblings
In the book The Evolution of Personality and Individual Differences, the authors wrote that second-born children are not as highly-favored as the elder children, nor do they receive as much overall attention. This causes them to become highly independent and rather ingenious in their approaches to life. They aren't given as much, so they have to use what little they receive and make it last and make it more valuable.
5. They're More Active Than Firstborns
I think my parents' primary complaint from my toddlerhood and childhood is that I was always getting into something and always running around. I couldn't sit still. Meanwhile, they consistently praised my sister for being such a good sleeper, and always able to just sit and read or watch TV. Just a few weeks ago, my mother told me "I didn't sleep until you went to school." (Because I had too much to do, sleeping is for the weak.) And now, research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has shown that second and later born children are more active and have lower blood pressure and body weight than firstborns.
6. They Might Not Be As Traditionally Intelligent
There's a ton of data that says that firstborns perform slightly better on cognitive tests than their second and later born siblings, including research published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. But that's just one area of study. It says nothing of their drive, their creativity, or their willingness to be completely passive-aggressive toward their parents in an article posted for all the world to see.
7. They're Less Likely To Go To Or Finish College
British researchers found a correlation between birth order and educational attainment suggesting that second-born children are slightly less likely to go to college or to finish college. This is mostly due to the fact that the resources were used for the firstborn children, and were not available to them. Ironic, given that second-borns were more stressed about education.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.