Birth Order and Sibling IQ

by Jennifer Chait


For years it’s been widely thought that genetics, not birth order determine IQ. However, a recent study in the journal Science (June 22) reports that first-born children are smarter than their younger siblings. The study, examined by, relates that first-born children have IQs that average 2.3 points higher than their younger siblings and that the findings hold true even in families where a first born dies and the second born is raised as the eldest.

Exciting news, if like me, you’re the eldest kid in a family of many. Yea me!
Still, I don’t think that we can completely count on our birth order as a one-way ticket to genius land and some scientists agree. Dr. Petter Kristensen, of the National Institute of Occupational Health in Oslo reports that IQ can make a difference because an IQ that’s even a couple of points higher can increase a child’s “educational potential? giving them an edge over younger siblings. In the long run though for an individual, “This effect is so small that it gives little predictive power.”

Case in point; I’m the oldest in my family. I have both a younger sister and younger brother. Which of the three of is the smartest? (This is where you say me). Just kidding, the real answer is that we’re all smart but in different ways. I read, draw, and create art projects constantly and was always considered the “artistic? or “creative? one in the family. My sister however always pulled through high school with a straight A average while I barely managed to get Cs because my “creative? brain wouldn’t let me sit still long enough to stay focused. My brother hates reading, yet excels at math and can fix anything you’ve got that needs fixing. All three of us have excelled in our very different chosen careers.

I suppose you could break my sibs and I down like this; creative smarts, book smarts, and practical smarts; although I see evidence of all three kinds of smarts in each of us at times. Frank J. Sulloway, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Personality and Social Research calls this “niche partitioning.” Basically this means that a first born comes along and fills a niche. For example I filled the creative niche. Then my siblings came along and because I had already filled the creative niche they decided to take on other, different roles.

When children in families can fill a certain niche it allows them to increase their chances of receiving personal attention within a busy family. Sulloway concludes that because of niche partitioning parents don’t need to worry about birth order or IQ; many issues make us who we are and determine success.

To learn more about birth order visit this site: Human intelligence: Historical influences, current controversies, teaching resources

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 11:23 am and is filed under Parenting, Lifestyles, Child Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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