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Firstborns smart, but younger siblings work harder
August 16th, 2010
12:10 PM ET

Firstborns smart, but younger siblings work harder

Competition between siblings can be fierce - from bickering over who gets the last cookie to whom Mom and Dad likes the best.

That competitiveness translates into the academic world, too.

Research presented this month at the American Psychological Association found that firstborns score higher on aptitude tests, yet younger siblings obtain higher grade point averages.

The younger ones are harder working, the siblings agreed in questionnaires they filled about themselves and their siblings.

The 90 sibling pairs, who came from a diverse, suburban New York High school, answered questions about themselves and their brother or sister’s intelligence, work ethic and academic performance.

Researchers obtained the teenagers’ test scores and grade point averages, too.

One hypothesis why the elder sibling scored higher on aptitude tests is that all firstborns were only children for a while, perhaps receiving extra attention and help with schoolwork from their parents before their younger siblings were born.

Study author Tiffany Frank, a doctoral candidate at Adelphi University, pursued the research because of the dynamics in her family. Frank, the youngest of three, said, “I have an older sister who I just felt was smarter than me."

Yet, younger siblings had higher grade point averages.

The anecdotal evidence, provided by Frank and her fellow colleagues is that the later born children are more competitive, seek to outperform their older siblings by putting in extra effort to gain more attention from the parents.

But both firstborns and their younger siblings identified themselves as the more naturally gifted teenager compared with their family member.


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