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Firstborns Are Smarter Than Siblings—Could This Be Why?

Three siblings (7-11) standing side by side
Photograph by Getty Images

When you only have one kid, everything is new—from what their bedtime will be to what snacks they can and can't eat and how much TV they can watch. But add one or two more children to the mix and the rules change (and parents become a little more lenient). Well, a new study examined why the first kid in a family repeatedly tests higher than his or her siblings in IQ and at school.

While the common misconception is that parents simply get tired and lazy about rules with their second or third child, that's not what the study's results showed. Two economists from Duke University and Washington University in St. Louis found that it was all about the parents' perception of how smart and successful their child would be. In other words, they believed the firstborn would be more successful, so that child got more attention because they expected more out of him or her.

When siblings come along, parents don't have as high expectations—they know how things are and can perceive how much attention their kids will need. Of course, if those children brought home lower grades than expected, parents would step in; but since their expectations weren't as high, they weren't as strict. The researchers say that if parents were able to continue the momentum of expecting only the best for each child, the kids would probably do better in school.

What do you think? Do you think perception and expectations really play such an important role in kids' development?

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