They grow up in the same home, eat the same food, share the same genes (and sometimes the same jeans), but siblings are often no more similar than strangers. Their tempers, moods and personalities are often dissimilar. And now, a study says that their parents’ opinion could have a lot to do with this.
According to the study featured in the Journal of Family Psychology, when parents compare their kids, it shows up in the classroom. After conducting a study on parents, children and their grades, researchers found that the majority of parents thought that the firstborn was better, although on average; siblings’ achievement was pretty similar.
Parents’ beliefs about sibling differences weren’t influenced by past grades, but future grades by the teenagers were influenced by the parents’ beliefs. The child parents believed was smarter, tended to do better in the future. The child parents believed was less capable, ended up doing relatively poorer the following year.
Researchers insist that over time, those small effects result in siblings who are quite different from one another. So when parents compare adolescent siblings to each other, it may be based on differences that have existed for years.
A mom or dad may think that the oldest sibling is smarter because at any given time they are doing more complicated subjects in school, said one of the researchers. The firstborn likely learned to read first, to write first, and that places the thought in the parent’s mind that they are more capable, but when the siblings are teenagers it leads to the siblings becoming more different. Ultimately, the sibling who is perceived as performing poorly, actually ends up doing so, according to the study.
The one exception in the study was when the firstborn was a brother, and the second born a sister. In that case, parents believed the sister was more academically competent.
Source: Science Daily
Reference: What makes siblings different? The development of sibling differences in academic achievement and interests, Journal of Family Psychology