Since Alfred Adler released his birth order theory, there’s been a lot of agreement—and disagreement—about how much kids are impacted by when they are born into their families in relation to their siblings. However, recent scholarly studies have shown that the extra attention that a majority of parents give their first-born children does positively impact the educational and cognitive abilities of the first-born kids, when compared to their younger siblings. But little has research has covered the behavioral differences between siblings. Enter a new MIT study that shows second-born boys are more likely to have behavioral problems than their older brothers. Here’s the breakdown on that study.
MIT’s Study of Second-Born Boys and Behavioral Problems
MIT’s Sloan School conducted a recent study of brothers in both Denmark and Florida. The study looked at families with two sons in the first-born and second-born positions, and from a variety of different backgrounds, with a focus on the behavior of these sets of brothers. The idea was to find out if there was a difference in delinquent behavior between the first- and second-born boys. MIT chose to study boys in the two different countries to see if the differences in social views on behavioral problems, as well as approaches to crime and punishment would impact the outcomes of the sons’ behaviors.
In an interview on the subject, NPR’s Social Science Correspondent Shankar Vedantam said, “The researchers find consistent evidence when it comes to crime and delinquency.”
The study, which include tens of thousands of sons found that, in-fact, second-born boys were 20 to 40 percent more likely to have behavioral problems than their first-born siblings, as evidenced by the number of recorded disciplinary actions taken in school, as well as within the criminal justice systems of Florida and Denmark.
Of course, the children who are noted to have behavioral problems is not high, but of those children, it is more often second-born brothers.
“1 in 10, 1 in 20, are getting in serious trouble,” explained Shankar Vedantam. “But Doyle is saying that among this minority of children, there appear to be sizable differences between first- and second-born brothers.”
Interestingly, the significant and notable difference found for boys was not found with first-born and second-born sisters.
Watch a summary of these findings, reported by ABC on the following YouTube video:
In the published report, MIT noted that in Denmark, second-born boys are much more likely, as well, to participate in violent crime and be imprisoned, than their older siblings. Furthermore, patterns of behavioral problems in middle school and high school are likely to be present for these second-born boys who later go on to participate in crime.
Understandably, many want to know why there’s a difference in order to help the second-born boys to avoid the behavioral problems…