IQ Articles > Do Firstborns Have an IQ Advantage?

Do Firstborns Have an IQ Advantage?

Norwegian researchers annunciate that eldest child enjoys the privilege of a higher IQ compared to his/her younger sibling(s), in the largest study ever on birth order and intelligence. Another study involving quarter of a million young men suggested that the eldest child usually has a higher IQ.

Probable Reasons as to why Firstborns are at an IQ advantage?

Francis Galton, the noted biologist and eugenicist, outlines the following reasons:

  1. By primogeniture laws, firstborn sons would be more likely to have the financial resources to continue their education.
  2. Firstborns generally are "treated as mini-adults." This implies that they shoulder more responsibility than their younger siblings, hence they are more likely to be mature and have psychological cognitions developed.
  3. Firstborn children would get more attention and better nourishment in families with limited financial resources.

The Confluence Model proposed by R.B. Zajonc & Markus and Zajonc, the late Stanford University Psychologist explains the firstborn IQ advantage in terms of the ever-changing intellectual environment within the family.

  1. Firstborns enjoy undivided parent's attention, so they benefit from their parent's complete absorption in the new responsibility. Later born children never experience this advantage. This accounts for the Belmont and Marolla (1973) finding that firstborns from smaller families have higher IQs than firstborns from larger families.
  2. Firstborn children are exposed to refined and pregnant adult language. Later borns are exposed to bauble and lower quality language of their siblings. This may affect their performance on the verbal scales of IQ tests. This also supports the finding that children in larger families have poorer IQ scores.
  3. As more children enter the family, the general intellectual environment diminishes. This would explain why firstborns and older children from large families have lower IQs than firstborns and older children from smaller families.
  4. Firstborns often have to "tutor" their younger siblings, which helps them cognitively process information. This tutoring function explains why only children do not tend to have higher IQs than firstborns.

Research relates..

Norwegian epidemiologists analyzed data on birth order, health status and I.Q. scores of 241,310, 18 and 19 year-old men. After ironing out IQ score influencing factors, including parent's education level, maternal age at birth and family size, researchers found that eldest children scored an average of 103.2, about 3 percent higher than second children (100.3) and 4 percent higher than thirdborns (99.0) on IQ tests.

The scientists then reviewed I.Q. scores in 63,951 pairs of brothers, and found the same results. Differences in household environments did not explain elder sibling's better scores.

Are firstborns positioned to achieve higher?

A hot forum of debate is on which examines whether firstborns with higher IQ are entitled to become more successful in life compared to their younger siblings. For well over a century scientists have toyed with the idea, that the road to greatness is dotted with firstborns. Galton noted that an unusually high proportion of positions of power and influence (mostly scientists) were monopolized by firstborns. First-borns are allegedly swotty, bossy and stubborn. Thus it is proposed that they are smarter and more likely to become leaders than are later-born siblings.

Let us take a look at some real life examples. The utopian physicist Stephen Hawking is a first-born child. George.W.Bush the former American President was more successful than his younger brother Jeb, a mere state governor, who was in turn more accomplished than his younger sibling Neil, a businessmen whose reputation is sullied for bringing down a loans and savings firm. While Bill Clinton excelled at political conviction, the conviction that brought shame to the family belonged to his younger brother Roger abused for cocaine possession. Parents too, seem to concur that all siblings do not have same IQ level. An online survey of over 10,000 mothers found that 35% of them thought that their first born was the family scholar unlike 15% who thought otherwise.

Although research touts firstborns to be prized with a higher IQ, there are a host of other factors such as family size, social rank, breeding environment, parent's IQ etc. which play a vital role.

Related Articles

Later borns Not Much at an IQ Disadvantage
If firstborns enjoy a higher IQ, does that mean later borns are dull? If you are not the eldest child, there is no cause for you to worry. Understand why..
A study says that each successive child born into a family has, on average, a slightly lower IQ, by about 0.7 IQ point, than the previous born child? A parallel effect is found on scholastic achievement as well.

IQ and Heredity
A little boy went up to his father and asked: "Dad, where did all of my intelligence come from?"The father replied. "Well son, you must have got it from your mother...
Well the above joke is certainly true by all means! IQ is largely depended on Heredity and it is one of the main factors among the other factors which determine differences in IQ. [Note] Intelligence quotient: a measure of a person's intelligence as indicated by an intelligence test.

Other Resources