Effect of Birth Order on Academic Performance

In the latest Sunday Times, one article that caught my attention was “First’s bossy, third’s bratty” (lifestyle, reflect section).  It was about how birth order can determine certain traits in children.  I believe the traits are closely linked to academic performance, especially in the case of the first and last child.

In “Battle Hymn of  the Tiger Mother”, Amy Chua wrote that the case of ‘model first kid, rebellious second’ can be observed in many families consisting of more than one child.  The first child bears the responsibility of setting a good example for the younger siblings and will thus be more hardworking.  Being in the teenager or “tweens” stage, at the peak of academic competitivity (primary and secondary school level), the child will be less in clined to ask parents for answers.  Without elder siblings to help, he/she will turn to friends, books or the internet.  The middle and last child, however, has older sibling(s) to spoon-feed them and will hence be less resourceful.  This is well depicted in the Peanuts comic when Sally makes Charlie Brown do her homework for her.  With this help, the younger child becomes lazier and will neglect his/her studies.  Another possibility is that he/she thinks he/she will do well, seeing that his/her elder sibling(s) has/have also done well.

If you get a family of 3 or more children, chances are the grades drop as you go down the birth order.  However, there is a rather high chance that the last child might surpass the middle child(ren) and maybe even the first.  Parents will be more familiar with the school syllabus when time comes for the last child to start formal education compared to his/her siblings.  Hence, he/she will receive slightly better tutoring and will be more prepared for exams.  It is also possible, though unlikely, that the first child is always playing, gaming and watching TV instead of studying, hence the subsequent kid(s) do better (common if the first child is a boy).  Of course, the last child will be the baby of the family forever and will have more people coaching and helping him/her than his siblings.

So if you’re wondering why you never seem to be able to do as well as your sibling, when were you born?

A/N: I am the eldest of 5 kids and the first 3 of us (the only ones in formal education so far) quarreled a lot when young, calling each other ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’ and ‘fool’.  I wanted to prove that I was ‘not stupid, unlike them’, and I think that is what spurred me to study hard.  If you compare our report books, you will find that I did better than both of them.  Second eldest, my sister, is very close behind, but she was born cheeky and mischievous and is also rather lazy.  She loses out mainly due to her bad spelling and lack of vocabulary.  She often asks me questions regarding school work.  Third, a boy, plays most of his time.  He refuses to put in much effort into his work so you can guess his results.  The other two, both boys, have not started formal education yet although the older one graduated from kindergarten this year.  However, he also does not put in much effort in his work.  The last one is quite bright and might be able to do better than his brothers but at times I feel he is overconfident.  What did I say? First does the best, then the grades start dropping before the last surpasses.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Effect of Birth Order on Academic Performance

  1. Well, that rather fits in with the “middle child syndrome”, doesn’t it?
    But I am of the view that lots of factors influence someone’s eventual success and genetics only play one part – in terms of brain capacity, inclination and personality. There’re the life experiences and what we make of those that can make or break a person. And there’re also the friends we make that contribute to the decisions we make about our lives.
    I hope not many people subscribe to that – because if we believe that we are trapped in a situation that dooms us – ie born 2nd, or 3rd in a string of children, then there will very few successful people in the world today. We need to beat the odds and overturn theories 🙂

  2. This article is kinda demoralising.. I’m like the second child ( youngest too).

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