Eldest child more selfish than siblings: Scientists
Last Updated: Friday, December 11, 2009, 13:46
London: Surrounded by problems and need a helping hand? Don't ask your firstborn as a French study has found that eldest children are more selfish and less co-operative than their siblings.

Researchers from the Montpelier University, found that the arrival of a younger brother or sister has long-lasting impact on the eldest child's personality, leaving them wary of others and their motives.

"Shifting from only to firstborn status following the birth of a younger sibling seems to lead the eldest child to reduce his or her co-operative behaviour," they said.

In other words, the shock of finding themselves no longer the centre of their parents' world dents their trust, making them warier of people's motives, The Daily Mail reported.

Earlier studies have found that firstborns show higher IQs than their siblings. This may be because they benefit from having their parents' undivided attention at the start of their lives.

But mollycoddling of the first baby also leads to eldest children growing up to be more conservative, uptight and anxious, in contrast, younger siblings tend to be more easy-going, more unconventional and more able to cope with stress.

The team also found that younger children are likely to be shorter than their older siblings. It is thought that the competition of brothers and sisters for food, attention, money and love, takes its toll on growth.

Worst off is the youngest child in a family of three or more, who, facing the fiercest fight for dwindling resources, tends to be shortest of all.

The researchers asked a group of men and women to take part in a financial game designed to assess co-operation. They played in pairs and each started the game with the same number of Euros.

Player A was asked to give some money to Player B. The donated cash trebled in value on receipt then Player B was asked to give some money back. The risk that Player B may return less money than he was given, or even nothing at all, means that Player A is heavily reliant on trust.

More than 400 volunteers played the game, including 178 firstborns, 48 middle children, 125 lastborns and 66 only children.

Scrutiny of tactics showed that the firstborns gave away 25 per cent less cash when in the role of player A. They also passed less back when in the role of Player B, New Scientist reported.


First Published: Friday, December 11, 2009, 13:46

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