You’ve probably heard the terms “middle child syndrome” or “last born tendencies” being thrown around in conversations, particularly if you’re either a middle child or last born child. In general, the speculation has been that firstborns are more disposed to be leaders; lastborns are usually more laid-back and confident; whilst middle children tend to be insecure and unsure of where they fit in. But how can we know any of these arguments hold water?

An extensive amount of observational research has been done to examine the dynamics between siblings. And it seems to me that being born first definitely has benefits beyond never wearing hand-me-downs. Below are some compelling findings that may surprise you.

The effect of birth order

sibling-rivalryIn the past years there’s been an increasing amount of hard evidence to confirm what many have suspected for years: that one’s relative position in a family can have a big effect on their character. A famous article published in TIME magazine in 2007, The Power of Birth Order, cited a Norwegian study in which it was concluded that firstborn children are often the smartest, and have IQ’s that are on average three points higher than their younger siblings. Apparently, this could be because older siblings get an intellectual boost from having to take care of their siblings.

The youngest children are apparently less educated than older siblings, and also less likely to grow up to call the shots in the corporate world. According to a study cited in the article, the top positions in companies are mainly occupied by firstborns (43%), followed by middle children (33%) and finally lastborns (23%). No wonder younger siblings are always whining! The upshot is that younger siblings also more likely to lead exciting lives as entrepreneurs, adventurers or artists. If that isn’t a cogent argument, then perhaps everyone should opt to have one child.

Only child syndrome

In 1979, China introduced a one child policy which limited the number of children that urban couples could have to one child. About 35.9% of the population is still subject to restriction and in the 21 years between 1979 and 2000, an estimated 250 to 300 million childbirths have been prevented. But, why impose this restriction? The Chinese government says the policy is used to reduce and control the country’s social, economic and environmental issues. However, in an article published in Asia Week in 1999, the writer states that only-children tend to be, among other things, over indulged by their parents; fearful of leaving the nest; entitled; narcissistic; and selfish. Ouch! Sounds harsh, but an article published in Times, Costly Legacy for the spoilt Little Emperors, doesn’t disagree.

So perhaps having siblings isn’t so bad, if the alternative tends to result in your being a spoilt brat; having said that, only-children don’t have to worry about not being their parent’s favorite child. In a study cited in Playing Favorites, an article published in Time Magazine in 2011, it’s revealed that 65% of mothers and 70% of fathers tend to have a favorite child, usually the eldest. I think that, from these studies, it’s obvious which child really rules the roost!