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Second-Born Children Are More Likely To Become Criminals, Study Says

Caitlyn Clancey 14 Feb 2020

A new study has found that second-born children are more likely to pursue a life of crime than their siblings, effectively proving once and for all that the "curse of the second-born" is indeed a very real thing.

Researchers from MIT, Northwestern University and the University of Florida conducted the sibling-focused survey which was titled, "Birth Order and Delinquency: Evidence from Denmark and Florida".

If you've never heard of the "curse of the second-born," it's probably because you don't have any children.

Giphy | Kim's Convenience

Basically, this so-called "curse" means that the child who happens to come out second in the birth order also happens to be the biggest pain in the ass out of all their siblings.

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It's long been rumored.

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Up until recently, this concept was really nothing more than something you brought up to the ladies in your mommy group so everyone could find comfort in the fact that their family isn't special — all baby number two's are total assholes.

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But now we have the science to prove that this "curse" could be legit.

Giphy | Brockmire

As a first-born child with a younger sister, I don't need science to tell me this, but it's definitely great to have a legitimate "I told you so" source.

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As per the study, thousands of siblings in Florida and Denmark were closely monitored and had their behavior analyzed.

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What the researchers found was that second-born children, particularly boys, are significantly more rebellious than their siblings.

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By a pretty sizeable margin!

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In fact, their data showed that these children are 25 to 40 percent more likely to get in trouble at school, be considered a juvenile delinquent, or even have some run-ins with the law.

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So what is it about birth order that makes one sibling more inclined to live a life of crime than the others?

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Well, as NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam explained, it could have something to do with the way parenting styles change between children:

"As many other earlier studies have noted, firstborn kids get the undivided attention of their parents, whereas kids born later are often competing for parental time and resources."

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Another possible reason has to do with the change in role models between the first and second-born children.

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"The firstborn has role models, who are adults," MIT economist and study lead Joseph Doyle told NPR. "And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings."

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Which is a mildly terrifying thing to imagine.

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"Both the parental investments are different, and the sibling influences probably contribute to these differences we see in labor market and what we find in delinquency."

He added, "It's just very difficult to separate those two things because they happen at the same time."

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But if you're a parent of more than one child, or are a second-born yourself, don't start freaking out just yet.

Giphy | CBC

This study doesn't suggest every child born second in line is going to become a total delinquent.

It's just saying that birth order matters more in the grand scheme of things than we might think it does.

h/t: University of Chicago Press Journals, NPR

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