Thursday, May 22, 2008
Birth Order of Children
"A recent study by BYU economist Joseph Price would surprise parents committed to treating their children equally. It shows that firstborns get far more quality time with parents than their siblings." Click here to view the story on NBC Today Show. (http://www.byu.edu)
I don't, in particular, want to argue with the findings of the study, but it did seem a bit negative. It seemed to me that the firstborn is the luckiest, and everyone else isn't. That's how it came across to me.
Granted, all I've seen is what they showed on the Today Show on NBC. I didn't read the entire study. However, I didn't like what the research seemed to be implying, so I've come up with my own idea of what I think about the birth order of children.
I feel the study failed to take into account a very important factor--the gender of those children. In considering gender, if the first-born is a son, I would hypothesize that he would be pushed more toward independence and leadership than a daughter. If the first-born is a daughter, perhaps she would be coddled more while she is young and expected to help out the mother more with the other children as she gets older. I think that would be interesting to study--the gender of the children in relation to birth order.
What about families who have more of one gender than another? If they have four girls and then a boy, I think it would be possible that the boy would be pushed more toward high success careers than a fifth girl might. Is it possible that because I was the only girl in my family that my parents' expectations of me were different? I feel confident that I spent more quality one-on-one time with my dad than any of my brothers did simply because I was the only girl (you know, "daddy's little girl"). I know my brothers spent time with my dad, but I don't think they spent as much quality one-on-one time as I did, yet I'm not the oldest, just the only girl.
What about spacing? Consider three kids who are all male, where there is five years between the first two and 13 years between the younger two. Don't you think parents are more likely to be able to spend more quality time with each individually than parents who have four kids in 5 years (spacing: 17 months between first two, 23 months between next two, and 14 months between last two)? Those four kids are more likely to spend a lot less time one-on-one with parents because the demands for a parent's divided attention is so great.
Is it even bad if the oldest gets more quality time with the parents than the others? Perhaps Heavenly Father considered this and sent each child down in the order He did for a reason. Perhaps the spirit who is the oldest needed to be the oldest and the others all had their special place too. What about twins who are the oldest? Or elsewhere in the birth order? What does the study say or suggest about those relationships?
It didn't seem to say in the study whether it was positive or negative that parents spend more quality time with the first-born. I'd have to also ask if those 3,000 hours included the time in the child's life when he or she had no younger siblings? Of course there would be greater time spent one-on-one with the parents during that period of time because there are no other children! I mean, say a parent spends 8 hours a day times 365 days during the first year of the oldest child's life solely with that child, that equals 2,920 hours in just that one year. If the oldest is only 1 year older than the next, that is almost 3,000 hours right there!
The point I'm trying to make is that there are so many factors, I think it would be hard to really come up with a conclusive study about birth order. Gender matters, spacing matters, the number of children matter. Did the study just incorporate two-parent homes where the primary caregiver is the mother (I assume this since he is from BYU), or did it also include single parent homes? Not to mention that what one person may consider quality time, others may not consider it to be so. For example, many men feel that watching TV with their kids is quality time--I tend to disagree. All in all, I'd really like to read the entire study to see if any of these other factors were weighed, and if they weren't, I wouldn't call it a very thorough or fair study.