Not every second-born child turns out to be a handful. For every President struggling with his Russia ties (yes, Donald Trump is a middle), second-borns have Bill Gates and Chris Hemsworth in their corner. But some new research has found that the second-born curse might be real, and worse, there might not be a way to avoid it.
An MIT team decided to compare second-borns in Denmark and Florida, two affluent states with very different approaches to just about everything, from criminal justice to health care, to see if there was anything to the second-born curse, and if there was, what might lurk behind it. First, the good news: Researchers didn’t find any evidence that second-borns were unhealthier, that their parents loved them any less, or that second-borns got stiffed on educational opportunities or resources. In other words, the research found that parents really do tend to love their kids, which isn’t that surprising. Also, if your second-born is a girl, there don’t seem to be as many problems.
But boys? Yeah. It’s hardly a horrifying doom, but the paper found some glaring issues. Second-born boys were 20% to 40% more likely to get into trouble with the law, go into a juvenile detention center, or otherwise be a disappointment to their parents in a way you can find on a background check. And despite what you might think is the Florida factor here, it was the same in Denmark, which spawns substantially less weird news items.
That just leaves the question of why. The paper found no difference in health or education; in fact, second borns were generally healthier and had access to more educational opportunities. The only theory the team has, ultimately, is that first-borns simply get more attention. The first baby is the focus of the parents until the second one comes along a few years later, and then parental attention is split between the two. In other words, first-born sons get a head start on attention second-born sons can’t make up unless they invent a time machine. Even the most well-meaning parents can’t make up that gap unless they ship their first-born off to boarding school or make the grandparents raise them until the gap’s made up, which seems a bit cruel.
In short, parents are probably up a creek and there’s nothing they can do except do the best they can and hope their kid isn’t garbage. And, according to the study, it generally works! But teach your kids not to throw hissy fits on Twitter, just in case.
(Via Country Living)