It’s a pretty well-known fact among veteran moms: second children are quite the handful. While most of us come out the other side of parenting our first child feeling pretty confident, it often crumbles under the immense pressure of having another baby in the house. Babies who, a lot of the time, are here to humble us and teach us a few things. My son, our second-born, has challenged almost every parenting ideal I had before he came along. At times it’s been tear-inducing. Others, just plain comical.
Thankfully a study conducted by an MIT economist named Joseph Doyle confirms what most of us moms with multiple children expected: Second children actually are more difficult than others.
Doyle conducted a study of thousands of families where there were more than one child, focusing primarily on families whose second-born was male. When the study was said and done, it came to the conclusion that second-born children presented more “challenging” behavior than the others. Second-born boys were far more likely to be in trouble with the school system, and were far more likely to be incarcerated.
There are, of course, many factors that could lend a hand to these outcomes. Doyle tells NPR,
“The firstborn has role models, who are adults. And the second, later-born children have role models who are slightly irrational 2-year-olds, you know, their older siblings. 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. It’s just very difficult to separate those two things because they happen at the same time.”
But, lest we think our unruly first-born toddler siblings are mostly to blame, Doyle also shares that, “differences in parental attention” are a potential contributing factor in the delinquency gaps across birth order.
So, while we were leaving our little ones in their bumbo seats to tend to big sister’s potty training needs or putting her in time-out for the hundredth time that day, we were slowly making our children delinquents? Oh boy!
Of course we can’t be so hard on ourselves, but the information is interesting for sure. We’ll choose to take this information with a grain of salt, because after all, we’re doing the best we can, right?
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.