Researchers say second-born kids are more likely to be rebellious

Cute cheeky boy

News just in! A 2017 study has revealed second-born children are more likely to be risk-taking troublemakers than their older siblings and many parents are muttering “No sh*t, Sherlock” as they coax kiddo number two down from that tree!

Rebel, rebel?

The very through study by Sanni Breining, Joseph Doyle, David N Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth looked at over 2 million children in Denmark and the US.

It’s (quite judgementally if you ask this second-born child!) called Birth Order and Delinquency, and it researched how birth order might impact kids’ disciplinary problems at school, how it might affect juvenile delinquency and whether it might contribute to adult crime.

It’s authors found some compelling patterns as the trawled through the data:

  • Second-born boys are much more likely to exhibit delinquency than an older sibling, while the rebellious streak in second-born girls is not as marked.
  • There was no evidence that second-born children were less healthy, in fact second-born children appear to be healthier at birth and have lower rates of disability in childhood.
  • There was no evidence that parents invested less in their second-born children’s education.

Attention deficit?

The researchers concluded was the time parents spend with first and second born kids often differs – and this could be where the roots of rebellious behaviour are sown. #CueMumAndDadGuiltRightAboutNow!

“We consider differences in parental attention as a potential contributing factor to the gaps in delinquency across the birth order,” the study’s authors said.

The research team hope their work will spark further discussion on parental leave and exploration into the best balance for children, mums and/or dads.

“Our findings regarding systematically different dosages of early-childhood parental attention as a plausible mechanism also engender further discussion of parental leave as a long-run social benefit,” the authors write.

Other experts say that first-born kids model their behaviour on their parents, whilst second-born kids have siblings as their role models. This may contribute to these behavioural differences too, they point out.

Obviously there is more work to be done if we want to get to the bottom of this.

I’m kind of concerned about the implication that time spent at home with kids reaps the reward of “good children”. 

Not everyone has the choice to spend more time with kiddo number two (or three or four, even!) I acknowledge, though,  that quality time with kids is really important and wish every parent had the opportunity to hang out with their kids as much as they want to – without financial or even health pressures interfering.


What are your thoughts on this research? Will this just make already stretched parents feel inadequate? Or do we need to sit up and take notice?

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