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Birth Order And School Achievement

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Birth order and School Achievement

There has always been an attempt to figure out why some people do better in school than others. Is it due to financial stability? Is it attributed to parents' own success as students? Very importantly, one's birth order plays a role in one's school achievement.

I. Theory

Growing up with siblings or the absence of siblings can be a major factor in determining academic success. Being the oldest, middle or youngest child does not necessarily determine academic success concretely without exception, but serves as a predictor of future academic success. School achievement is gauged by how far one goes in his or her education, starting from grade school, all the way up to graduate school. Before getting into the developmental stages across the life span and in the interest of time, I will only be discussing birth order in terms of the oldest child, middle child, youngest child and only child because configurations of five or more children occur only in 10% of the families with children. The average family in the U.S. has three (Toman, 1976). Also, I will be dividing the developmental stages into 3 stages: childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Childhood (Ages 1-12)

The firstborn child is likely to have intensified feelings of power and superiority, high anxiety, and overprotective tendencies (Feist & Feist, 2002). The firstborn children usually have a close relationship with the parents than laterborn children. The child has the experience of having his or her parents to him or herself and tends to feel like a rather important individual (Forer, 1969). For a while, these children are only children until a

younger brother or sister is born. They experience a traumatic dethronement, which may development resentment towards the new baby. During this time in their life, firstborns may be jealous and want to seek mother and father's affection. When it comes to school, in grade school, these children will try to seek attention by being a class clown or a rebellious child. Education itself may not be of interest to them. Report cards may show poor grades and unsatisfactory behavior. This makes sense because before the younger siblings were born, the firstborn child was anxiously awaited. Parents are so proud of the firstborn as their "pride and joy."

The middle child or secondborn child's personality is shaped by their perception of the older child's attitude toward them (Feist & Feist, 2002). If the firstborn is hostile toward the secondborn child, he or she may become highly competitive or overly discouraged. I believe that since the middle child never has the opportunity to experience being an only child, he or she odes not lose the position of being younger than another child in the family but rather grains the advantage or being older than one or more. They may become competitive in school because they want to earn recognition from their parents. They do not get that much attention due the attention spent on older brother or sister, or younger brother and sister, so excelling in school may get them the attention they crave. They may bring home a piece of homework and show their parents that they did well in order to receive acclamation.

The youngest child is popularly known as the "spoiled brat." He or she is pampered excessively and is disciplined less than his or her older siblings. During this stage, the youngest child may want to model everything his or her older siblings are doing. In turn, this may make them less independent in school and more reliant on someone to help them. To get what they want, screaming and tattling are their special kinds of manipulative skills (Forer, 1969). A youngest child may have parents who have climbed the salary ladder and therefore he or she may benefit from financial means.

The only child, with the lack of siblings may compete against his or her father and mother. They more often than not develop an exaggerated sense of superiority, an inflated self-concept, and a feeling that the world is a dangerous place, especially if their parents were overly concerned with their health (Feist & Feist, 2002). In grade school, only children are socially mature and in turn may weasel their way out of trouble and do well. Because an only child has no siblings, his or her parents have the financial means to put all their eggs into one basket. He or she is likely to be involved in many activities such as baseball, softball, piano lessons, ballet lessons and martial arts.

Adolescence (Ages 13-17)

During this time, the oldest child has learned to be responsible, whether it may be taking care of his or her younger siblings or prioritizing responsibilities. The firstborn is going through many things during high school. He or she is the first among his or her siblings to attend high school. Among other things, the firstborn must pave the way for his or her siblings in terms of independence and setting a good example for all to see. Getting their parents to ease up on rules is often an uphill battle. But after reasoning and constant bickering, the firstborn ultimately gets what he or she wants. This type of headstrong attitude displayed by the firstborn may be great for his or her future academic endeavors. Firstborn children have been found to be verbally more able and tend to make higher high school grades than later-born siblings (Forer, 1969).

For the middle child, seeing his or her older sibling succeed or fail in high school can serve as an encouragement or discouragement. The middle children in the family seem to be ambitious and competitive in many ways, but at the same time to be forced to learn ways of competing that are indirect (Forer, 1969). They do well in high school and are cooperative in group-projects because they are used to cooperating in their own family.

The youngest child at this point in life has seen the follies and accomplishments of his or her older siblings. Youngest children are then ambitious and know which educational avenues to take advantage of because of their oldest sibling. They are lazy about finding out resources on their own because of what is readily available to them through mom, dad and siblings.

The only child is likely to do better than the average in their high school achievement and tend to make higher grades than children coming from other family positions (Forer, 1969). Again, the parents can financially support activities which give their child cultural and social experiences that stimulate intellectual development.

Adulthood (Ages 18 & on)

The firstborn child is now the first to venture

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