Eldest Sons Do Best on Tests
Boys at the top of the pecking order — either by birth or because their older siblings died — score higher on IQ tests than their younger brothers. The question of whether firstborn and only children are really smarter than those who come along later has been hotly debated for more than a century.
Norwegian researchers now report that it isn't a matter of being born first, but growing up the senior child, that seems to result in the higher IQ scores. Petter Kristensen and Tor Bjerkedal report their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
Here's the interesting theory proposed by another researcher.
Frank J. Sulloway of the Institute for Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley, welcomed what he called the Norwegians' "elegantly designed" analysis. "These two researchers demonstrate that how study participants were raised, not how they were born, is what actually influences their IQs," said Sulloway, who was not part of the research team.
The elder child pulls ahead, he said, perhaps as a result of learning gained through the process of tutoring younger brothers and sisters. The older child benefits by having to organize and express its thoughts to tutor youngsters, he said, while the later children may have no one to tutor.
This has potential applications in education. Homeschooling naturally gives children the chance to act as as tutor to younger siblings. It raises the question of how to give these types of opportunities to youngest or only children.
Schools could also use this model. When I was in third grade, my teacher put me outside in the hall to work with another student who was a struggling reader. It has been long enough ago that I don't remember if it was a one time thing or something that happened on a regular basis. Either way, I remember enjoying it.
The strict grouping of children by age and ability might also hinder the development of IQ and leadership qualities.
Related Tags: homeschool, public school, eldest sons, IQ, Frank J. Sulloway, Institute for Personality and Social Research