If you have a son that's the youngest or middle child, you're going to want to watch them like a freakin' hawk. Second-born sons are more likely to get suspended, become juvenile delinquents, and go to prison.
Photo by Phillipe Put.
I knew even before I had a daughter that I was going to raise her to laugh in the face of sexist stereotypes, to be whoever she wanted to be and to do her part in keeping the world safe for others to do the same. And then we got the ultrasound and it turned out I was having a boy.
According to a massive new report from Joseph Doyle, an MIT economist, the "curse of the second-born child" might actually be true. Doyle and his colleagues Sanni Breining, David Figlio, Krzys Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth scoured a ton of data sets and found that second-born children (specifically sons) have a whopping 25 per cent to 40 per cent increased chance of getting in serious trouble at school or with the law when compared to the first-born in the same family.
Researchers have suggested for a while that first-borns do better in education, have higher IQs, and can earn higher wages, but this is one of the first major studies to point out that second-born children are in fact the troublemakers of the bunch. And this isn't something exclusive to families in the US. The family data sets, consisting of thousands of sets of brothers, come from both the US and Europe. Now, this isn't to say that every second-born son is going to be a handful, but the study suggests the risk is there.
But why? What makes second-born sons so different from their older siblings? For one, Doyle suggests parents of first-borns are more invested in their upbringing. By the time the second kid comes around, parents are simply less vigilant. It also has to do with the child's role models, Doyle explains to NPR:
The firstborn has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings. Both the parental investments are different, and the sibling influences probably contribute to these differences we see in the labour market and what we find in delinquency. It's just very difficult to separate those two things because they happen at the same time.
It's important to note, however, this research is painting a very broad picture. Not every family will encounter this phenomenon, and being a second-born son certainly doesn't mean you will have a harder time in life. There are always exceptions to the rule. But for parents out there raising a second child, it couldn't hurt to keep a watchful eye and stay on guard. It seems that treating them differently than your first-born will have an impact.
When my four-year-old misbehaves (and boy, does she), I have about 3.7 seconds to run through a litany of possible parental responses in my brain, and choose one.