Study: Second babies are more likely to have behavioural issues later in life

Recent research that looks at birth order suggests that second-born kids, specifically boys, are more likely to have trouble in school and with the law. What do you think?

Study: Second babies are more likely to have behavioural issues later in life

Photo: iStockphoto

Ever heard the expression, "First baby glass, second baby rubber"? A recent study suggests that the stereotypical lack of fuss and attention bestowed upon a second-born kid can actually lead to behavioural issues down the road.

The study's researchers, led by MIT economist Joseph Doyle, surveyed thousands of families in Florida and Denmark and concluded that generally, the second-born child, especially boys, tended to be the biggest troublemakers of the family. The study shows that these kids aren't just more likely to give their parents a hard time—they're even more likely to have problems at school and with the law.

"Second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40 percent more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings," says Doyle.


The researchers found no evidence that second-born children are less healthy, nor that parents invest less in second-born kids' education. Rather, they believe that "differences in parental attention" are the potential contributing factor to the gaps in delinquency across the birth order.

Of course, these findings don't ring true for every family. In my own family, I was the troublemaker, and I'm the oldest. I ran away at 16, making my poor mother want to pull her hair out. My younger brother (second-born and also a middle child, but that's another story) has also gotten into his fair share of trouble, both in school and with the law. I always chalked it up to growing up in a small town that offered little to do except for partying and burning random things in fields.

What do you think? Is your second child more of a handful than your first?

This article was originally published on Jul 21, 2017

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Amy is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. Her work can also be found in publications like Chatelaine, Toronto Life and The Globe and Mail