If your second child has a habit of driving you up the wall with their behaviour, then it seems that you are not alone in your exasperation with your second offspring.
A study in 2017 by economists in the USA and Denmark concluded that second-born children, especially boys, are more likely to get into trouble at school, skip school, or even be convicted of a crime, than first-born children.
The study looked at families with two or more children in both Denmark and Florida, with a focus on second-born boys.
Despite large differences in environments across the two areas, we find remarkably consistent results: in families with two or more children, second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings.
The outcome for a pair of brothers was much worse than a girl-boy first and second-born dynamic.
What’s causing the bad behaviour?
There are a few potential contributing factors that could be resulting in this unruly lot of second-born boys.
The first factor is role models. A first-born has their parents, ie adults, as their main role models. Unfortunately for the second-born, they also have an older sibling as a role model – often a crazy-ass toddler who thinks the world revolves around them!
The second factor is parental attention (you just knew it was going to come down to being the fault of the parents, right?). Usually a first-born will get all of their parents’ attention. Once you throw another child into the mix, of course, attention and time are split. Plus, with second and subsequent children, parents tend to tone down the overly anxious parenting and we all just sort of cruise along more. But, the study found that we still invest just as much into our children’s education, our second-born kids are just as healthy and are more likely to attend preschool.
So there it is – we’re giving our second-born kids less attention and worse role models! In fact, first-born kids are often getting a double dose of attention as they tend to benefit from the time available to parents during maternity leave for the second-born child too.
What can parents do about it?
Whilst the results and further studies may help to influence parental leave policy as a social benefit, there isn’t really a lot we can change in our parenting. You are only one person with 24 hours in a day. You can only do your best at giving each of your children an equal amount of attention but it is simply not always possible.
The findings are also just from one study and only indicate an increase in behavioural problems, so it’s not going to apply to every second-born boy. I have two boys myself, born approximately two years apart. And yet, the second-born boy is all about following the rules and often asks if we can send his older sibling back for a refund when he stuffs up, so I don’t think the terrible role modelling quite gelled in this instance!
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”