Study Explains How the First Born Child Is Often the Most Intelligent

Study Explains How the First Born Child Is Often the Most Intelligent

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A study by German researchers reveals that the first born child tends to have higher intelligence. Of course, being the oldest doesn’t always equate to having more wisdom, but the eldest sibling does have some advantages.

For example, when parents have their first child, they spend more time with them. The undivided attention they give to their first born may influence their IQ. Since the parents only have one child to look after, they can invest more energy and effort into raising them. They may have more time to teach the child vital reading, writing, and other educational topics.

However, when the second or third child comes along, the parents probably have other obligations. Demanding careers and busier schedules make it challenging to devote as much time to later-born children. This doesn’t mean the parents love them any less, of course; it’s just the harsh reality of trying to juggle family life with other responsibilities.


Also, with the first born child, parents are still learning the ropes of child-rearing. In this “experimental” phase, the parents want to get everything right, so they indulge their child. After they feel more comfortable with parenting, they may loosen their grip and have a more relaxed approach.

Children born later may enjoy having more freedom and fewer rules to follow. However, they don’t benefit from their parents’ uninterrupted attention as the first born child did.

Study Explains How the First Born Child Is Often the Most Intelligent

first born

Birth order doesn’t always determine intelligence, but this study found that first-born children had slightly higher IQs. Researchers from the University of Leipzig studied the birth order of 20,000 people from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

They assessed intelligence based on verbal ability and general IQ tests. Researchers also gave personality tests to the participants in adulthood, which measured the “Big Five” personality traits. These include extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness.

The researchers determined that the first born children had, on average, an IQ of 1.5 points higher than second-born children. So, being the oldest child seems to have only a slight impact on intelligence. The results determined that the eldest child had a higher IQ 60% of the time. Also, birth order seemed to not influence personality traits.

 The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other studies seem to confirm the theory that the oldest child possesses higher intelligence. A study published in the Journal of Human Resources found that firstborn children exhibit more academic prowess. Their parents tend to invest more in their education, which gives them an advantage over their siblings. Researchers found that they scored better on cognitive tests than their younger siblings at the same age.

The findings were based on the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of the Youth, which includes data on thousands of young adults between 14 and 21.

The survey began in 1979 and asked questions on employment, income, education, family life, and other background information. Researchers interviewed the respondents at the beginning of the study and every two years since 2014.

 Co-author Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann, an economist at the Analysis Group in Boston, said she was astounded that parenting styles affected a child’s cognitive abilities early in life. She added that new parents tend to be more aware of how their actions affect their first born. However, they’re not as rigid with each subsequent child since it’s not their first rodeo.

Being the First Born Offers Several Advantages

While the study found that parents give equal love and affection to all their children, the oldest still receives more mental stimulation. Families can’t offer the same engagement in educational activities such as reading, teaching the alphabet, and playing with second or third-born children.


 As families face time constraints, they consciously or unconsciously adjust their behavior and attitudes about parenting. However, like the previous study, the authors found that parenting styles had no impact on children’s personalities. First born children did display more confidence, though, especially regarding their intelligence and academic performance.

 In addition, the mother’s behavior became more relaxed with each subsequent pregnancy. For example, the study found that women started prenatal care later if they’d already had a child. They also didn’t breastfeed as often and drank more alcohol than first-time moms. Studies reveal that breastfed babies have better cognitive performance as they get older.

 So, it’s clear that parental behaviors and habits profoundly influence children. First born children may have the advantage, but parents should try to give each subsequent child the same love and attention. Early life experiences have a lasting impact on a child and can significantly influence their academic success.

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