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Is Your Second Child Destined to Be a Troublemaker?

Photograph by Twenty20

How would you feel if, after giving birth to your second child, the doctor handed him to you and said, “Congratulations, but watch out with this one because he’s more likely than your firstborn to be a troublemaker”?

Well, that’s pretty much the conclusion that researchers from a study led by MIT economist Joseph Doyle came to after poring over data from thousands of sets of brothers from Denmark and Florida.

It's true Denmark and Florida are quite different when it comes to raising kids, and yet Doyle and fellow researchers found that despite the differences in environments, there was something they had in common. In families that had two or more kids, second-born boys were 20 to 40 percent more likely to receive disciplinary action in school, and enter the criminal justice system, when compared to first-born boys and other siblings.

Oh, brother! But why? What makes second-born boys more likely to act out? Well, there could be a lot of reasons, but one explanation for how birth order may account for the difference is the influence of the first-born on the second-born.

"The first-born has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings," explains Doyle.

It’s important to keep in mind that second-born boys aren’t predestined to a life of disciplinary run-ins or delinquency, so don’t go buying your second-born striped pajamas or orange jumpsuit onesies just yet.

The information just feeds into the growing body of evidence that birth order can make a difference in how your kids turn out as adults, and maybe all those second-borns complaining about how they got a bum rap ain’t lyin’.

You might be asking: What about the girls? The study predominantly focused on boys, but when researchers looked at the data for sisters, they didn’t find a significant difference between second-born girls and their siblings.

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