In news that will no doubt infuriate my older brother, and confirm what I have always suspected to be true, the youngest sibling in the family is often the favourite.
No, I haven’t persuaded my editors to let me wreak havoc in my own personal vendetta to gain familial superiority. This, people, is scientifically-proven and published in the Journal of Adolescence.
The Chris and Liam to Luke Hemsworth; the Noel to Liam Gallagher; the Mary-Kate to Ashley Olsen; although the older sibling is apparently more intelligent, the youngest is by far cooler and funnier.
However, apparently we’re also the more arrogant and needy because researchers have found so-called favouring the younger sibling is actually all in our heads.
Researchers from Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life have concluded that favouritism is in fact in the eye of the beholder.
Essentially, if a younger sibling feels like they’re the favourite and their parents agree, the parent-child relationship is strengthened. If they don’t think they’re the favourite, the opposite happens, the study shows.
For older siblings, whether they’re considered to be the favourite or not has less of an effect on their relationship with their parents, and it’s all down to the comparison complex instilled in baby brothers and sisters from birth.
BYU School of Family Life assistant professor Alex Jensen told Independent:
It’s not that first-borns don’t ever think about their siblings and themselves in reference to them. It’s just not as active of a part of their daily life.
My guess is it’s probably rarer that parents will say to an older sibling, ‘Why can’t you be more like your younger sibling?’ It’s more likely to happen the other way around.
So what can be done to heal the baby of the family’s aching heart?
Jensen offers a solution:
When parents are more loving and they’re more supportive and consistent with all of the kids, the favouritism tends to not matter as much. Some parents feel like ‘I need to treat them the same.’
Jensen’s advice? ‘Treat them fairly but not equally’, adding: “If you focus on it being okay to treat them differently because they’re different people and have different needs, that’s OK.”
Despite our obvious (inward-looking false sense of) superiority, many second-born children have long harboured suspicions that their elder sibling gets special treatment from their parents.
Researchers at Edinburgh University found evidence that proves us right.
Not only that, adding insult to injury, apparently that special treatment actually makes first-born brothers and sisters smarter than their younger counterparts.
Firstborns have been found to have greater cognitive reasoning and a ‘mental edge’, according to Dr Ana Nuevo-Chiquero, of Edinburgh University’s School of Economics.
The study, which was conducted over fourteen years with nearly 5,000 children, found that older siblings score higher than their brothers and sisters in IQ tests – and the difference is noticeable as early as age one.
Researchers have dubbed it ‘The Birth Order Effect’.
While siblings were not given different levels of emotional support, ‘first-born children received more support with tasks that developed thinking skills’.
The tests involved mental reasoning, literacy development and vocabulary. They also accounted for family background and the families’ finances during the child’s development.
‘Child Number One’ came out on top in all cases.
Dr Nuevo-Chiquero explained:
Our results suggest that broad shifts in parental behaviour are a plausible explanation for the observed birth order differences in education and labour market outcomes.
As Niles from Fraiser aptly put it, by the time the second-born gets round to anything, ‘It’s all chewed meat’.
The evidence, surely, will be stimulating sibling rivalries to new, unforeseen levels of competitiveness. My heart goes out to all my fellow second-siblings.
Stay strong – and remember you’re almost certainly cooler than that square anyway.