The impact of a person’s birth order is often underestimated as a significant factor in identity formation. The environment at home impacts on child development and birth order can influence how a child is treated by parents and siblings.
Our birth order impacts how we are perceived by our families and can relate to the amount of responsibility, independence and support we are given as children.
Birth order can also change the way parents raise their children. In most cases parents develop skills over time. The first-born child may be raised in an environment of anxiety if parents are unsure of their new role. This can result in more anxious first-born children. As parents become increasingly comfortable with raising children, they will typically given their second or third born child more freedom to explore etc.”
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“Ideally, children should be raised as individuals. Parents should do their best not to discriminate between children. Making comparisons between siblings is dangerous as this can promote competition” says Kimberley O’Brien, Child Psychologist at the Quirky Kid Clinic.
However, the effects of birth order on a child’s personality may diminish over time. “As we mature we are less affected by the behaviour of our parents and our initial family unit” says Kimberley. While parenting effects diminish as children progress into adulthood, maternal bonds may differ according to birth order. One study of 426 mothers relationships’ with their adult children revealed a deeper emotional connection with their youngest child, yet they would be more likely to contact their oldest-born child when facing personal crises. (Suitor & Pillemer, 2007).
In general, first-born children are typically independent, trailblazers, with the propensity to be anxious or dominant. They have also been shown to be higher achievers, more conscientious and more patient. Second-born siblings are more open to new experiences and demonstrate more rebellious tendencies (Healey & Ellis, 2007).
The ‘middle child syndrome’ is popularly characterised by children who might be lacking in identity, trying to please others with no defined goals or vying for attention from their older and younger siblings. However there is little truth to this idiom, in Kimberley’s opinion. “Middle children can be influenced by their elder siblings, and have increased social opportunities with younger and elder peers.” One study of 794 adult middle-borns revealed no reduction in relationship quality with their family members. They did not preference friendships over family relationships any more than other birth orders (Pollet & Nettle, 2009).
Children born last in line typically gain more attention within the family, however they may display more immature and dependent characteristics than their elder siblings. On a positive note, they have been shown to be more agreeable and warm (Saroglou & Flasse, 2003). Interestingly, one study of 700 brothers found the younger brothers were 1.48 times more likely to participate in high-risk activities (Sulloway & Zweigenhaft, 2010). Another study revealed an interesting dissociation: boys with older siblings were more likely to engage in sports like football, whilst girls with older siblings were less likely to participate in extracurricular activities such as community service and school bands (Rees et al., 2008).
Only children can be easily dismissed as spoilt or lacking social skills, however their access to more resources and more parental attention certainly benefit their development.
The literature is divided as to whether birth order significantly impacts a child’s IQ, however one recent study revealed there are approximately 3 IQ points, or, a fifth of a standard deviation between first-borns and second-borns (Black et al., 2011). The discrepancy is not biologically determined, but more a result of birth endowments, allocated resources and the independent personality traits commonly associated with eldest children. These birth order effects are slightly more pronounced for girls (Kristensen & Bjerkedal, 2010). The same effects were found in a study of 2,500 adolescents in a child and adolescent psychiatry clinic (Kirkcaldy, Furnham & Siefen, 2009).
There have been theories that birth order can influence your choice of potential romantic partners. “Couples may be able to more easily relate to each other if they have the same birth order, such as two first borns may be comfortable with independence and increased responsibility. They may also have experience caring for younger siblings,” says Kimberley.
While there are documented effects of birth order on factors such as personality, risk-taking and academic performance, parents would do well to ensure each child is given equal attention, nurture and resources.
Black, S. E., Devereux, P. J., Salvanes, K. G. (2011). Older and wiser? Birth order and IQ of young men. CESifo Economic Studies, 57(1), 103-120.
Healey, M. D. & Ellis, B. J. (2007). Birth order, conscientiousness and openness to experience: Tests of the family-niche model of personality using a within-family methodology. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 28(1), 55-59.
Kirkcaldy, B., Furnham, A. & Siefen, G. (2009). Intelligence and birth order among children and adolescents in psychiatric care. School Psychology International, 30(1), 43-55.
Kristensen, P. & Bjerkedal, T. (2010). Educational attainment of 25 year old Norweigans according to birth order and gender. Intelligence, 38(1), 123-136.
Pollet, T. V. & Nettle, D. (2009). Birth order and adult family relationships: Firstborns have better sibling relationships than laterborns. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 26(8). 1029-1046.
Rees, D I., Lopez, E., Averett, S. L., Argys, L. M. (2008). Birth order and participation in school sports and other extracurricular activities. Economics of Education Review, 27(3), 354-362.
Saroglou, V. & Flasse, L. (2003). Birth order, personality and religion: a study among young adults from a three-sibling family. Personality and Individual Differences, 35(1), 19-29.
Sulloway, F. J. & Zweigenhaft, R. L. (2010). Birth order and risk taking in athletics: a meta-analysis and study of major league baseball. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(4), 402-416.
Suitor, J. J. & Pillemer, K. (2007). Mother’s favouritism in later life: The role of children’s birth order. Research on Aging, 29(1), 32-55.
Following on from our fact-sheet about preparing for kindergarten, below we continue to explore the questions that most parents explore School readiness in regards to deciding if their children are actually ready for school.
What is school-readiness?
School-readiness refers to the point at which a child is considered “ready” to enter the formal education system.
In previous generations, a child was considered “school ready” when she passed a certain age (for example, if she turns 5 before July 31).
Now, however, an increasing number of parents and schools are rethinking the idea of age-based “school-readiness”. Instead, they believe a child is school ready when she is academically, socially, physically, and emotionally ready to cope with the demands of the classroom and the playground.
To help parents decide if their child is ready for school, or for a new level of school such as Middle school or Secondary school, here are some things to keep in mind.
If you’re sending your child to Kindergarten, ask yourself:
How well does my child socialize in comparison to same-aged peers?
Can my child sit and focus when given an activity?
Does my child respond to set boundaries?
If you’re sending your child to secondary school, ask yourself:
Is my child mature or immature in comparison to peers?
Is my child organized and motivated?
How does my child feel about changing schools?
While it’s impossible to predict any child’s future, it’s important to consider if your child’s development puts her in a position to follow this timeline, or if it puts her in a position where at some point she is likely to be overwhelmed and falling behind. As repeating grades is not recommended due to the impact of self esteem and friendships, delaying your child’s entry to Kindergarten, Middle School, or Secondary School may be your only chance to ensure that her schooling is appropriate for her development.
Research your child’s school
Before you decide whether or not to send your child to school, it’s a good idea to get a sense of the demands she’ll face by meeting with potential teachers, talking to parents at the school gate and observing students in potential playgrounds.
You are also encouraged to research the school curriculum, standardized testing such as the NAPLAN and the daily routines of the classroom. Ask an administrator at a local school, or contact your school board, to find out these details.
Assess your child’s skills
A child’s development is typically assessed in term of these four (4) categories: academic, social, physical and emotional.
If your child is developing at a similar rate to her peers in these four categories, you may wish to consider advancing her through school on a typical timeline. Children with significant developmental challenges, however, may have difficulty keeping up with their peers. In this case, it may be best to delay starting school until she can successfully cope with the common demands of school life.
At any new school level, your child will have to cope with academic demands.
Is your child interested in learning?
How developed are her language and communication skills?
Does she seem interested in reading, writing, mathematics or creative activities?
Can she pay attention and sit still for a (relatively) long period of time?
Does your child show patterns of friendship that are age appropriate?
Can she cope with conflict?
How will your child react to unstructured play time at recess and lunch (for Kindergarten) or interacting with students outside her class (secondary school)?
Think about the emotional demands that will be required of your child at the new school level, and ask yourself if she can meet them.
How does your child cope with setbacks or frustration?
How often does she require comforting or reassurance?
How independent is your child when eating, using the toilet, or getting dressed?
Consider your child’s gross and fine motor skills in relation to the physical tasks required by the new level of school. Can she independently do zippers or buttons to manage her school uniform?
How does she find writing or using a keyboard? Does she have any disability or illness that will affect how she adjusts to school life?
Many children with difficulties in one or more of these four key areas may benefit from starting school at the typical time for their age group if their challenge is effectively addressed either in or out of the classroom.
For example, a child with physical challenges may “catch up” with regular visits with an Occupational Therapist. Social issues are best managed by a Child Psychologist. If you feel your child can handle the demands of school overall, but needs help with one specific area, it might be a good idea to seek support to address any challenges.
Talk to your child’s other caregivers and/or educators
If you’re not sure about your child’s developmental patterns, some of the most useful sources of information are staff at your child’s current school or pre-school. These professionals not only spend a lot of time with your child, but with many other children of the same age.
Standardized testing such as using the Griffiths Mental Development Scales (GMDS), Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID-III), Stanford Binet (Early SB5) or Wechsler (WPPSI – III) Intelligence Scales will break down different aspects of your child’s development, showing her strengths and weaknesses, as well as normative scores for her age.
If you have any questions or queries about standardized developmental assessments, please give us a call at the Quirky Kid Clinic on 9362 9297.
Information in this factsheet was obtained from interviews with Psychologist Belinda Jones and Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid clinic.
This highly accessible book takes a positive psychology approach to explore why healthy relationships are important for resilience, mental health and peaceful communities, how people learn relationships and what helps in developing the positive.
The abstract is as follow:
Practitioners working in child and family psychology typically hear about the challenges of problematic parent–child relationships. A positive psychology approach, however, identifies what is effective in fostering family resilience and facilitating optimal parent–child relationships (Suldo SM, Parent-Child Relationships. In Gilman R, Huebner ES, and Furlong MJ (eds) Handbook of positive psychology in schools. Routledge, New York, 2009).
Drawing on this perspective, this chapter summarises the literature, exploring different parenting styles and effective parenting strategies. We also outline changes in the parent–child relationship from birth through infancy, childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. We also consider the impact of alternative carers and cultural diversity with reference to mutually rewarding parent–child connections and increased child well-being.
Children often sleep alongside parents or siblings as they are growing up. This practice is termed “co-sleeping”, and typically, it occurs on a nightly basis for an extended period of time: weeks, months, or in some cases, years. Many families find co-sleeping a good way spend time together and bond as a family, or to reduce their child’s stress around falling asleep or waking during the night. It is also popular among breastfeeding mothers during their child’s infancy.
While sharing a bed might ease pressures on families while children are very young, the habit of co-sleeping can pose problems as children mature. By the time their children are 2 – 2 1/2 years old, most parents will be eager to have them sleep easily through the night in their own beds.
Why should my child learn to sleep alone?
Encouraging independent sleep in children as they mature is important for several reasons:
Extended co-sleeping can discourage children from achieving what’s known as “night time independence”. Children with night time independence are confident that they can fall asleep on their own, and know how to comfort themselves if they are stressed or anxious around sleep – key steps in healthy emotional development.
Frequently, pre-school and school-aged children have fitful sleep cycles. Having a child kicking, tossing and turning in their bed can interrupt parents’ sleep, leading to exhaustion and stress throughout the day.
Parental intimacy is often compromised when their children sleep with them. This can have a detrimental effect on a couple’s relationship, affecting communication and physical closeness.
How do I break the cycle of co-sleeping with my school-aged child?
If your child refuses to sleep alone, or wakes up crying during the night, and only stops when you are near, he might be experiencing separation anxiety at night. This pattern is also known as “night-time separation anxiety”. Night-time separation anxiety is common among children up to 3 years old, but older children can experience it as well.
Here are some things you can do to ease night time separation anxiety and help your child sleep alone:
Develop a regular daily routine. The same waking, nap time, and bedtimes will help your child feel secure, which can help them fall asleep more easily. Have a bedtime routine – for example, bath followed by story time and a brief cuddle. Consistency and clear communication is key.
Keep lights dim in the evening and expose your child’s room to light, preferably natural, as he wakes. These light patterns stimulate healthy sleep-wake cycles.
Avoid putting your child to sleep with too many toys in his bed, which can distract him from sleeping. One or two “transitional objects”, like a favourite blanket or toy, however, can help a child get to sleep more easily.
Don’t use bedtime as a threat. Model healthy sleep behaviour for your child, and communicate that sleep is an enjoyable and healthy part of life.
Avoid stimulants like chocolate, sweet drinks, TV and computer use before bed time. Children ideally need to relax and “wind down” for at least 1 hour before bed time.
Some other strategies to reduce your child’s dependence on co-sleeping include:
Wean your child from your bed over time. For example, you might plan to spend part of the night on a mattress on the floor of your child’s bedroom or sleep with him for a few hours in his bed before returning to your own.
Use a baby monitor to help a child who wakes at night communicate with you or your partner. This will also reduce the likelihood of him walking to your bedroom. If your child communicates to you through the monitor, visit him in his bed to reduce disturbance.
Use rewards, such asThe Quirky Kid Tickets to measure improvements in your child’s independent sleeping. For example, a partial night spent in his own bed will earn him a yellow ticket, while a full night sleeping alone will get him a red one. The child might collect tickets to exchange them for a prize.
We offer a range of services, workshops and individualised consultations to support children with sleeping difficulties. Please contact us for more information.
University of Michigan Health System (2011). Sleep problems. Retrieved September 23, 2011 from http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/sleep.htm
Brazelton, T. Berry and Joshua D. Sparrow (2003). Sleep: The Brazelton Way. Perseus Books.
Kimberley O’Brien (2011). Interview on Co-Sleeping with children and strategies for parents.
Keller, M. A. and Goldberg, W. A. (2004), Co-sleeping: Help or hindrance for young children’s independence?. Infant and Child Development, 13: 369–388.
Many parents, educators, and mental health professionals are concerned about the amount of time children are spending watching TV or “plugged in” to video games, computers and online activities.
According to recent studies, young children under the age of 2 spend an average of 2 hours per day watching TV or other screen media (like computers), while children over the age of 8 spend around 7 hours per day in front of screens (including texting on mobile phones).
What are the risks of too much screen time?
While kids have a lot of fun using screen media, it can also have negative effects on their healthy development. Some of the risks associated with excessive TV and computer use during childhood include:
attention difficulties: The rapid sequence of images and information that characterizes screen media inhibits the brain’s ability to develop sustained focus.
delayed language and limited vocabularies: While watching screen media the part of the brain that is responsible for language acquisition becomes passive, making it difficult for babies to learn words and syntax.
more aggressive and violent play behaviour: Children may become desensitized to the consequences of aggressive behavior after seeing it presented as benign or humorous on TV or online.
obesity: Sitting in front of the computer or TV means less time spent on active play, which reduces the likelihood of childhood obesity.
How much screen time is OK?
Most experts and recent research agree that children under 2 should not use screen media. The activity can interfere with playing, exploring, and interacting with others, all of which are crucial to physical and social development in the first 2 years of life. Children under 8 should use screen media for no more than 1-2 hours per day.
How can we cut back our family’s screen time?
It can be a real challenge to cut back on screen media use at home, especially as adults are excessive users as well.
The best way to encourage your children to cut back on using the TV, computers, and mobile phones is to model healthy behaviour yourself. Set a limit on screen time at home — say, 2 hours per day in the evenings, broken up into 30-minute chunks. It’s also a good idea to provide fun alternative activities to reduce the likelihood of boredom.
Free play, reading, and in-person conversations are activities that promote healthy brain development in children — encourage activities that include these options.
Some other tips to cut back on screen time at home:
Unplug and cover up. When you’re not using computers or the TV, unplug them, or stash them in a cabinet where you can’t see them.
Schedule. Limit use of screen media to at least 2 hours before your child’s bedtime. Using a computer or watching TV close to bedtime can interfere with your child’s sleep cycles, and make it difficult for them to doze off.
Relocate. Designate a “computer zone” for your family that is in a well-trafficked space, like the living room, so that users feel less absorbed while they’re using them.
Communicate. Tell your child’s babysitter and her friends’ parents that you are trying to cut back on screen time, so that your child isn’t gorging on screen media when you’re not around.
Converse. Watch TV with your child during designated screen media time, and ask them questions about the programming throughout. This will stimulate the language centres of your child’s brain, which are less active while watching TV.
Reconsider. Try not to offer TV, computer, or mobile phone use as a reward for good behaviour, or prohibit use as punishment. This can heighten a child’s interest in screen media.
We offer a range of services, workshops and individualized consultations to support children experience screen addiction. Please contact us for more information.
Family Education Network (2010). Watch TV Along with Your Child. Retrieved from http://life.familyeducation.com/television/toddler/53399.html?detoured=1
Graham, Judith. “Children, Television and Screen Time.” University of Maine (2011). Retrieved from http://umaine.edu/publications/4100e/
Ravichandran, P. & deBravo, B.F., (June, 2010). Young Children and Screen Time (Television, DVDs, Computer). National Research Center for Women and Families.
Pediatrics, A. A. o. (2011). Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 years. American Academy of Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-1753, 8.