Birth Order and IQ

I recently re-read an old NY Times article which claimed that eldest children have higher IQs.

The study found an average of a 3 point difference in IQ, when other factors relating to IQ were factored out (stuff like the parents’ educational attainment, family size, etc.). The study was done in Norway, based on IQs of men born between 1967 and 1976, measured when they were 18 or 19 years old. They even compared first borns with children who were second born but became the eldest after a death in the family. These “eldests” still had higher IQs.

I’m not Norwegian. I wasn’t born between 1967 and 1976. I’m not male.

I will admit, I’m an eldest. I have one little sister, and I’m pretty sure she has a higher IQ than me (if SAT scores are any predictor). Yes, I had the benefit of having my mother’s sole undivided attention for the first 3 years of my life. Yes, I remember teaching my little sister multiplication right after I learned it in third grade. (So ironic that she’s a mathematician.) Did that make me smarter? Maybe, maybe not. But guess what? I’m happy with my life, high IQ or not. Doesn’t that count for anything any more?

I’m pretty sure that when I have more children, yes, they will get treated differently than my first born. I can imagine being slightly less paranoid with my subsequent children. But, I don’t think I’ll give them any less attention or stimulation or love. Yes, my older children will probably get to help out with the younger ones. But will that give them higher IQ scores? Does it matter? Maybe I don’t want to raise cautious children (typically, eldest children). Maybe I want to raise risk-takers (typically, younger children).

How do you think this plays out in your family?


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