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First-borns Get More Quality Time with Mom

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The Wall Street Journal: Some of you have asked for more discussion on birth order, and commented on how your own kids' personalities seem to be shaped by it. I second that: My older child has both assets and challenges often linked to firstborn status.

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For the first time, a 2008 study has produced empirical evidence about the possible causes. First-born children receive 20 to 30 more minutes of daily quality time from parents than second-born kids of the same age from similar families, says the research. Although many people have hypothesized that firstborns get more parental time, this study, by Joseph Price of Brigham Young University, is the first I've seen that has the data to prove it.

Most other studies have focused on outcomes - on children's personalities and traits later in life - and have found firstborns tend to have higher IQs and to be more high-achieving and conscientious; later-born children tend to be more rebellious, liberal and agreeable.

There's also a silver lining for later-born kids, however, as Sara noted here: Parents often discipline firstborns more harshly, and cut later-born children more slack to misbehave. Also, other studies have disagreed with conventional thinking on birth order; this research found little evidence that it affects social attitudes, challenging the notion that firstborns are more conservative, supportive of authority and "tough-minded."

The Brigham Young study rings true for me; I know, looking back, that my firstborn child benefited from more of her dad's and my playtime, walking and cuddling. My second baby, quieter by temperament, spent far more time sitting back in his infant seat, watching the family activity around him. The precise effects on him can never be known, but later, for a time, he was the needier of the two, requiring more attention as an early teen.

Readers, do your firstborns get more of the attention and resources in your family? Do you see other birth-order effects in your children? How about between you and your own siblings? Or are these generalizations overblown?

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