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Old 06-24-2007, 11:27 PM   #1
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Study Says Eldest Children Have Higher I.Q.s

As the eldest sibling in my family I find this interesting. I won't say if this applies in my case or not, but what do you guys think?

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/21/sc...&ex=1182830400
Quote:
Study Says Eldest Children Have Higher I.Q.s


By BENEDICT CAREY

The eldest children in families tend to develop higher I.Q.’s than their siblings, researchers are reporting today, in a large study that could settle more than a half-century of scientific debate about the relationship between I.Q. and birth order.

The average difference in I.Q. was slight — three points higher in the eldest child than in the closest sibling — but significant, the researchers said. And they said the results made it clear that it was due to family dynamics, not to biological factors like prenatal environment.

Researchers have long had evidence that firstborns tended to be more dutiful and cautious than their siblings, and some previous studies found significant I.Q. differences. But critics said those reports were not conclusive, because they did not take into account the vast differences in upbringing among families.

Three points on an I.Q. test may not sound like much. But experts say it can be a tipping point for some people — the difference between a high B average and a low A, for instance. That, in turn, can have a cumulative effect that could mean the difference between admission to an elite private liberal-arts college and a less exclusive public one.

Moreover, researchers said yesterday that the results — being published today in separate papers in two journals, Science and Intelligence — would lead to more intensive study into the family dynamics behind such differences. Though the study was done in men, the scientists said the results would almost certainly apply to women as well.

“I consider these two papers the most important publications to come out in this field in 70 years; it’s a dream come true,” said Frank J. Sulloway, a psychologist at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Sulloway, who was not involved in the study but wrote an editorial accompanying it, added that “there was some room for doubt about this effect before, but that room has now been eliminated.”

Effects of birth order are notoriously difficult to study, and some critics are still dubious. Joseph Lee Rodgers, a psychologist at the University of Oklahoma and a longtime skeptic of such effects, said the new analysis was not conclusive.

“Past research included hundreds of reported birth order effects” that were not legitimate, Dr. Rodgers wrote in an e-mail message. “I’m not sure whether the patterns in the Science article are real or not; more description of methodology is required.”

In the study, Norwegian epidemiologists analyzed data on birth order, health status and I.Q. scores of 241,310 18- and 19-year-old men born from 1967 to 1976, using military records. After correcting for factors that may affect scores, including parents’ education level, maternal age at birth and family size, the researchers found that eldest children scored an average of 103.2, about 3 percent higher than second children (100.3) and 4 percent higher than thirdborns (99.0).

The difference was an average, meaning that it varied by family and showed up in most families but not all.

The scientists then looked at I.Q. scores in 63,951 pairs of brothers, and found the same results. Differences in household environments did not explain elder siblings’ higher scores.

Because sex has little effect on I.Q. scores, the results almost certainly apply to females as well, said Dr. Petter Kristensen, an epidemiologist at the University of Oslo and the lead author of the Science study. His co-author was Dr. Tor Bjerkedal, an epidemiologist at the Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services.

To test whether the difference could be due to biological factors, the researchers examined the scores of young men who became the eldest in the household after an older sibling had died. Their scores came out the same, on average, as those of biological firstborns.

“This is quite firm evidence that the biological explanation is not true,” Dr. Kristensen said in a telephone interview.

Social scientists have proposed several theories to explain how birth order might affect intelligence scores. Firstborns have their parents’ undivided attention as infants, and even if that attention is later divided evenly with a sibling or more, it means that over time they will have more cumulative adult attention, in theory enriching their vocabulary and reasoning abilities.

But this argument does not explain a consistent finding in children under 12: among these youngsters, later-born siblings actually tend to outscore the eldest on I.Q. tests. Researchers theorize that this precociousness may reflect how new children alter the family’s overall intellectual resource pool.

Adding a young child may, in a sense, diminish the family’s overall intellectual environment, as far as an older sibling is concerned; yet the younger sibling benefits from the maturity of both the parents and the older brother or sister. This dynamic may quickly cancel and reverse the head start the older child received from his parents.

Still, the question remains: How do the elders sneak back to the head of the class?

One possibility, proposed by the psychologist Robert Zajonc, is that older siblings consolidate and organize their knowledge in their natural roles as tutors to junior. These lessons, in short, benefit the teacher more than the student.

Another potential explanation concerns how siblings find a niche in the family. Some studies find that both the older and younger siblings tend to describe the firstborn as more disciplined, responsible, high-achieving. Studies suggest — and parents know from experience — that to distinguish themselves, younger siblings often develop other skills, like social charm, a good curveball, mastery of the electric bass, acting skills.

“Like Darwin’s finches, they are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment, and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Dr. Sulloway said. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the I.Q. tests do not measure.”

This kind of experimentation might explain evidence that younger siblings often live more adventurous lives than their older brother or sister. They are more likely to participate in dangerous sports than eldest children, and more likely to travel to exotic places, studies find. They tend to be less conventional than firstborns, and some of the most provocative and influential figures in science spent their childhoods in the shadow of an older brother or sister (or two or three or four).

Charles Darwin, author of the revolutionary “Origin of Species,” was the fifth of six children. Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish-born astronomer who determined that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the planetary system, grew up the youngest of four. The mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, the youngest of three, was a key figure in the scientific revolution that began in the 16th century.

Firstborns have won more Nobel Prizes in science than younger siblings, but often by advancing current understanding, rather than overturning it.

“It’s the difference between every-year or every-decade creativity and every-century creativity,” Dr. Sulloway said, “between innovation and radical innovation.”
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Old 06-25-2007, 03:50 AM   #2
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Old 06-25-2007, 05:57 AM   #3
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Don't have time to respond right now, but I find this topic more interesting than it appears deep does.
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Old 06-25-2007, 06:26 AM   #4
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My older sister is much smarter than me. It's not like I'm in the corner eating paste or anything but she always got A's while I was chuffed when I got a C, B or the occasional A. She was focused on the books while I watched the world around me. Even now that we're older I find it much easier in social situations so maybe it that older siblings are book smart but the younger ones are street smart.
Just the ramblings from the baby of the family
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Old 06-25-2007, 06:52 AM   #5
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The methodology to distinguish a social and biological was interesting, thank you dead kids.
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Old 06-25-2007, 07:53 AM   #6
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My big sister and I were teasing each other about this, but technically we don't count because we're 12 years apart which is more like being an only child.
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Old 06-25-2007, 08:13 AM   #7
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it's obviously true.
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Old 06-25-2007, 08:35 AM   #8
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I don't buy it.

"correcting for factors that may affect scores, including parents’ education level, maternal age at birth and family size" sounds a whole lot like fudging our #'s to get to that whopping 3-point difference. Think about it...girl has a child @ 15, the kid doesn't get the best upbringing...then she has a child a bit later, who sees a bit more stability in his early years, and ends up with higher IQ scores. Oops, gotta toss that one out...
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Old 06-25-2007, 08:52 AM   #9
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I think there are many variables, including many factors that go on within a family and the dynamic and the relationship and the differences in child rearing and parenting and parental attitudes. I am a middle and the only girl, and honestly my older brother is not the most intelligent one-IQ wise or otherwise. He does not fit the stereotype of the oldest child at all. Personally I think the middle is the toughest especially if you are the only girl or boy, and intelligence can be hard won in that case-on your own in many ways.
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Old 06-25-2007, 10:06 AM   #10
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Hmmm, that is interesting, though i wouldn't say completely true in my case, and my younger brother (just got a pHd in environmental science) is DEFINATELY the smarter one in our family!!
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Old 06-25-2007, 01:05 PM   #11
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You always have to correct for many things in studies like this.

I've noticed a trend in people's reception of this study. Excepting Mandy, older siblings tend to dig it, while younger siblings discredit/criticize it.
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Old 06-25-2007, 02:10 PM   #12
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Actually, as the eldest, I hate this study. I may be smarter, but I'm more rigid and boring. I'd be glad to hand over those extra 3 points.
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Old 06-25-2007, 02:32 PM   #13
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I'm the youngest of three. My middle sister did the best in school academically, my oldest sister is quite smart and probably does have a higher IQ than me but is also kind of screwed up, and she's the artist in the family. My guess is that the middle sister in my family has the highest IQ, although I was shocked recently to learn that she perceives me as the smartest. I think the thing is we're all good at different things and smart in different ways. They're good with money, math, real estate, children, practical things. I've got street smarts, have traveled more, have a broader perspective, the best job, and have my head more together. I also don't have children and seem to have more time to read and follow politics and learn about things that they don't have time for so it often seems that I'm more knowledgeable about what's going on in the world which is probably what makes my middle sister think I'm so smart. If we all 3 took an actual IQ test together, my score would probably be the lowest.
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Old 06-25-2007, 02:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by cinnaminson
My older sister is much smarter than me. It's not like I'm in the corner eating paste or anything but she always got A's while I was chuffed when I got a C, B or the occasional A. She was focused on the books while I watched the world around me. Even now that we're older I find it much easier in social situations so maybe it that older siblings are book smart but the younger ones are street smart.
Just the ramblings from the baby of the family
or I could have just said "what she said"
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Old 06-25-2007, 03:01 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
Don't have time to respond right now, but I find this topic more interesting than it appears deep does.

maybe you are right

look what I just found

Quote:
There have been more first born US Presidents and Nobel Prize Winners than any other birth ranking. Famous first borns include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Ted Turner, Winston Churchill, Jimmy Carter, Geoffrey Boycott, Edward Heath, Cecil Parkinson, Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, Mussolini, Che Guevara and Carlos the Jackal. In the entertainment profession, firstborns tend to play macho leading roles. Famous firstborn actors include Humphrey Bogart, Sylvester Stallone, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Bruce Willis. First born actresses tend to become leading ladies. They prefer the strong roles and shy away from the damsels in distress. Bette Davis, Joan Collins and Vivien Leigh are all first borns.
that settles it.



wait
but then there is this

Quote:
Middle children are said to be diplomatic. They mediate between siblings and are flexible and giving. They have lots of friends, but they can also be manipulative. They can feel elbowed out of a position of significance, or be forced to become the keeper of the peace between their siblings. Many feel forced to assume roles that their older siblings for one reason or another are unable to fulfill and this may leave them with a chip on their shoulder. Famous middle children include: George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jack Kennedy, George Bush, Damon Hill, Cindy Crawford, Robert Graves, Tony Blair and Edward Elgar.
sure Kennedy, Nixon, Eisenhower, and Washington were all manipulative bastards and very similar presidents.
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