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Are Second-Born Children More Likely To Become Criminals?


Are second-birth more likely to become criminals?

We all probably know a set of siblings where the younger one just seems a lot more carefree or getting into more trouble; and it could have to do with their birth order.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, and the University of Florida conducted a study where they monitored sets of brothers in Europe and in the US, where there is obviously two different cultures.

They found that second-born boys were more likely to run into trouble with authority figures than their older peers.  

It added that in families with two or more children, second borns, especially boys, were 20- 40% more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys unrelated to them, and even with their siblings.

While the same can’t be said for everyone of course as all families differ, why does the statistic still exist?

One possible explanation for these findings is that parenting styles can change according to birth order, said Joseph Doyle, one of the authors of the study.

For example, first-born kids often receive undivided attention from parents, while younger siblings have to compete for attention. And, as the family grows, dynamics change.

“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,” Doyle said in interview with NPR.

This causes the older child to have had more developmental time around adults, which can influence them to behave more maturely.

The study also found that with second-born children, parents weren’t exactly as hung-up over parenting as they were with the first child; not taking longer time off of work, for one; and generally weren’t as ‘enthusiastic’ anymore about caring for a younger child compared to when they had their first.

Enthusiasm for what, you may ask?

Well, many parents in the study felt that bedtime stories, arts and crafts, and playing instruments for example— were all basically done and over with when they had their first child, and felt it was all a repeat with the second child. Which is unfortunate, as  these activities are incredibly enriching for a developing mind.

It comes out then that second-borns are not only competing with their older sibling for attention, they are also competing with careers and other responsibilities parents face.

As a result, the researchers theorize, second-borns may act out certain behaviors to get their parents’ attention on them.

But it isn’t all bad news.

Doyle added that it was only a minority of children (say, 1 in 10 or 20) belonging to the second-born category who were getting into trouble, but it still all boils down to the parents in how they manage their time so each child gets the attention they deserve.

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