As the oldest in a clan of four, I found the findings within the article ‘The Plight of the Older Sibling’ a fascinating read:
‘a new study has confirmed what first-borns like Joshua have always suspected: The oldest kid in the family really does bear the brunt of parental strictness, while the younger brothers and sisters generally coast on through.’
‘By the time the second and third kids come around, many parents lighten up, and realize that they probably overreacted a little with setting rules for their first kid, Leman says. “The first-born’s a guinea pig; we practice on ‘em,” he says. “Once the other kids come in, we lighten up. Or exhaustion takes over.”
As the eldest, I would often look at my two younger sisters and notice that they were treated differently. There was so much more flexibility and I would often think ‘Hey, I was never allowed to do that’. What the study does not allude to is where this goes wrong. When the oldest child gets ticked off with the unbalanced nature of the treatment. I know that as I left home, I clearly rebelled against the strict and stifling rules that I was put under. When I came back into that home environment where the younger children were treated differently, I openly resented it.
In our family, we have often discussed being harder on our oldest. I think back to being a new parent and how we were so worried that the littlest bump would damage our new born baby. As parents, where every experience is new and a book can only tell you so much, there is that natural protectiveness. When our second child arrived, we were easier going – in large part because of experience and confidence (we had done it once before, we knew that a bump on the head would not break the child).
A very interesting parental read.