You wrap the first child in cotton wool. You give the second one a bit more freedom… when you get to the third you let them juggle knives.
This old saying may be a bit extreme but there’s no doubt that most parents tend to relax a little with each new child that comes along. But does that have any effect on their personalities and characters?
Possibly so according to new research by the polling organisation YouGov, which may explain why we often find our siblings so annoying.
The survey showed widespread differences in the way people viewed themselves depending on whether they were the first born in their family or the youngest.
More than half of first-borns thought they were more responsible than their siblings, while the youngest children tended to think they were the funniest and easy going.
This could be explained perhaps by the eldest child having to sometimes look after the younger ones, walking them to school or babysitting while parents were out. The younger ones, on the other hand, would be freer to enjoy themselves and let others do the boring responsible stuff.
First-borns also saw themselves as more successful, more self-confident and family oriented. The youngest trailed way behind in nearly every category…suggesting they may have developed an inferiority complex in comparison to their older siblings…perhaps not surprising as the first-born starts from a position of automatically being older and more experienced.
The youngest do score higher in one category though; 17% consider themselves the most favoured child compared with 10% of first-borns.
YouGov says: “To some extent age itself, rather than family dynamics, may be responsible for the differing characteristics. Older children, having had more time to get on in life, are more likely to say they are more successful than their siblings.
“But undoubtedly there are family forces at work – parental attention soon shifts on to new arrivals, and first-borns may have to learn the ropes themselves. As evidence, elder siblings are more likely to feel more organised and able to prioritise their own lives. Likewise, younger siblings are more likely to feel more favoured by their parents.”