Second-born males are more likely to be troublemakers, a study finds

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  • A study has found that second-born male children are more likely to be troublemakers compared to the first-born
  • This, the researchers said, is because parents spent more attention to their first-born than the second-born
  • The authors said the results have important implications for social policy

There have been researches that studied birth orders and their relation to cognitive outcomes like test scores, educational attainment, and wages. Another study extended this and found that birth order affects the child’s behavior and that second-borns, especially males, are more likely to misbehave and become troublemakers.

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Joseph Doyle, an economist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), together with his co-authors, looked into thousands of families with two or more children in Denmark and the United States to observe if second-born boys got involved in tr0uble more frequently than their siblings.

Despite differences in the environments of the chosen locations, they found consistent results — “In families with two or more children, second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings.”

This, the researchers found, may be because parents spend less attention to their second child compared to their first-born.

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“First-borns experience undivided attention until the arrival of the second-born. We discovered that the arrival of the second-born child has the potential to extend the early-childhood parental investment in the first-born child,” the authors found.

Their findings also suggest potentially fruitful avenues for monitoring and interventions.

“These new results have important implications for social policy. Crime, delinquency, and incarceration have enormous social costs and are associated with major losses in human potential,” they said. “Our findings regarding systematically different dosages of early-childhood parental attention as a plausible mechanism also engender further discussion of parental leave as a long-run social benefit.”