Sasha is Screwed

by Stacey

According to a new study, firstborn sons have higher IQs than their younger brothers. This finding is more likely the result of the eldest’s social rank within the family, the study authors concluded, rather than biological inheritance.

The researchers examined military draft records of over 240,000 Norwegian men. They found that firstborns scored 2.3 IQ points higher than their next oldest brothers. In turn, the second-rank brothers scored 1.1 points on average higher than the third brother in line. The researchers only included brothers who were raised together.

This from a Reuters story on the study.

To distill potential biological effects from social effects, Kristensen’s team dug up the young mens’ family birth records and found families whose first-born or first- and second-born children had died before the age of one year.

Men who were raised as the eldest, regardless of their birth order in the family had IQ scores that matched their first-born peers. The same was true for men who were raised or born second sons. The research was conducted by Petter Kristensen and colleagues at the University of Oslo and reported in the journals Science and Intelligence.

The results led the researchers to conclude that the family environment, rather than gene pool, made the difference.

Various researchers have suggested that older siblings might benefit from a larger share of family resources, the process of tutoring their younger brothers and sisters, or from expectations placed on their social rank.

“Things like intellectual resources (and) stimulation from the parents to the child seem to be very important,” Kristensen said in a telephone interview.

This is depressing news. Poor Sasha! My little baby doesn’t stand a chance. I can see it already. All those books I read to Sage when it was just him and me with the whole day ahead of us. For Sasha? Not happening. I’m too busy watching Sage jump off the couch, again, and listening to him belt out “Mr. Tamborine Man” on his ukelele.

And all those walks where I’d stop to let Sage look at and smell the flowers? No more. Now I’m bombing down the street with Sasha hanging on for dear life in the stroller while I try to chase down Sage whose taken off on his tricycle.

On the other hand, Sasha gets lots of input that Sage didn’t have as a baby. Sasha has young kids around him all the time who talk to him and show him stuff. Lately Sage likes to teach him how to run a Hot Wheels car on the floor or how to fly a toy airplane and make it crash! Sasha loves all this interaction and I think he gets a lot out of it.

And anyway, before I jump off a bridge I’m suddenly wondering how much does 2.3 IQ points matter anyway? And furthermore, how much does your IQ score matter either? I don’t even know what my IQ is and I don’t have the sense that anyone in the world has ever used it for anything. I’ll try to read more books to Sasha and to teach him to stop and smell the flowers, but maybe I won’t sweat two lousy points.

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6 Comments

Filed under baby, boys, child development, education, family life, IQ, kids, nature vs. nurture

6 responses to “Sasha is Screwed

  1. dcslugabed

    Before I had kids, I read with interest the sibling studies about the differences in personality that are attributed to birth order — and the refutations of those studies that argued that birth order has no measurable effect on anything. I didn’t bother to investigate which position was supported by more reputable evidence. But now that I have two, I think, how can birth order not make a difference? The experiences are different in so many ways, as you write. But there are good elements to each. As for 2 IQ points, I would bet that 2 IQ points has absolutely nothing to do with any measure of success in life–particularly happiness. At the same time, I now consciously carve out one on one time with my younger daughter. Time is going so much faster now that I have two, and I don’t want either of us to miss out on our relationship.

  2. Yeah, I get the sense that birth order theory is a little like astrology. Some people put a lot of credence in it, but others think it’s a bunch of bunk. Some of it rings true – that firstborns are more high strung and eager to please their parents. We’re so fixated on their every move from the time they’re born. The second ones get a bit of a pass on that. And I would imagine each one down the line gets less and less of that focused attention.

    It’s weird how much more quickly time seems to pass with the second one, as you said. It’s good that you’re carving out that one-on-one time with your youngest. Sasha and I do get some of that time when Sage is at preschool, but I’d like to start doing some special things with him, not just carting him to the market or the bank because it’s easier to do errands with one instead of two.

  3. i’m starting to wonder if lily is drafting off of all that hard work we put in with sadie. it looks she’s trying to be a big girl like her sister. our pediatrician told us that his five-year-old potty trained their baby and taught her how to read. i remember teaching my little sister how to ride her bike. so maybe it all balances out in the end.

  4. At the end of the my original post on this topic, I questioned the significance of two IQ points. Last week, the NY Times ran a Q&A with Dr. Frank Sulloway, an expert on family dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley. He had this to say on that issue:

    June 24th,
    2007
    4:00 am
    As I noted in the Science Perspective that accompanies publication of the new study by Petter Kristensen and Tor Bjerkedal, the 2.3 I.Q. points that differentiate the average Norwegian firstborn from the average Norwegian second-born in a two-child family is equivalent to the firstborn having a 13 percent greater chance of getting into a better college. This difference is also equivalent to the firstborn having 1.3 times the odds of getting into a better college, compared with the second-born.
    It is also worth noting that 2.3 extra I.Q. points (the advantage enjoyed by a firstborn over an immediately younger sibling) is approximately equivalent to scoring an extra 15 points on each SAT test, or a combined 45 points on the three current tests, which have a mean combined score of about 1,500 points. The cutoffs for acceptance to the best colleges, based on SAT scores, often hinge on where one stands within a range of just 40 to 50 points on the three tests combined.
    Seen in this perspective, these documented differences in I.Q. by birth order are hardly negligible. However, as I said in a recent interview published in part by Nature, if I had the choice of having 2.3 extra I.Q. points or having the “enlarged curiosity” that Charles Darwin’s uncle, Josiah Wedgwood, recognized in his nephew on the eve of Mr. Darwin’s departure on the Beagle to circumnavigate the globe, I would unhesitatingly choose the latter.
    So, yes, I.Q. is hardly everything, and much that makes people successful in life has to do with how people use their intelligence rather than with their intelligence per se. In addition, there is considerable evidence suggesting that siblings born later use their intelligence differently from the way firstborns use theirs. Indeed, later-born siblings would appear to have 2.3 extra points of one difficult-to-measure intellectual skill, associated with unconventional thinking, that firstborns sometimes lack.
    — Posted by Dr. Frank Sulloway

  5. aadc

    I think the effects of birth order are interesting and worth studying, but it seems like there’s bias in what gets analyzed (or at least reported). points like the one Dr. Sulloway made in his final paragraph about the higher rates of unconventional thinking in later-born siblings don’t get as much attention as the studies of IQ, SATs, etc. …maybe because researchers haven’t developed very good ways of looking at them yet. without the studies, there’s just anecdote, but don’t we all know plenty of very smart, highly successful and most importantly emotionally healthy and happy adults who weren’t first-born?

  6. Pingback: Now You Tell Me « Fussbucket

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