Speed Reads

sibling rivalry

Study: Firstborn children often outshine their siblings


Apparently, when your older sister was always saying she was better than you, she was telling the truth.

A recent study [PDF] by Feifei Bu at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Britain's University of Essex seems to show that if you are a female and the oldest child in a family, you are "statistically more likely to be the most ambitious and well-qualified of all your family," The Guardian reports. The runners-up are firstborn males. The study also found that the wider the gap in ages between children, the more likely it is the younger children will become high achievers.

The researchers studied 1,503 sibling groups and 3,532 individuals. Taking into account the education and professional status of the parents, the team found that firstborn children were 7 percent more likely to continue their education, and firstborn girls were 13 percent more ambitious than firstborn boys.

"There are several possible explanations for the higher attainment and ambition of the eldest," Bu says. "It could be that the parents simply devote more time and energy to them — it could be they are actually more intelligent. For me, I tend to lean towards the theory that parental investment is possibly at work there."

Some famous examples of firstborns doing well for themselves are Presidents Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, JK Rowling, Winston Churchill, Mick Jagger, and Richard Branson.