Older siblings aren’t always smarter: study

Are firstborns more intelligent? Are the babies of the family the rebels? It's a theory that's dominated psychology since the 1990s. But new research by Leipzig and Mainz universities suggests there's little to support it.

Older siblings aren't always smarter: study
Photo: Pixabay

In 1996, American psychologist Frank Sulloway published a book called “Born to Rebel.” In it, he described how children within a family fill “niches” that aren't yet filled by other family members – and therefore differ in personality and intelligence.

Oldest siblings are intelligent perfectionists, middle-children are more socially minded, and the baby of the family is more likely to rebel, he wrote.

To test this theory, researchers from Leipzig University and Mainz University analysed data from more than 20,000 respondents to national surveys in the USA, UK and in Germany, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“We didn't find those effects described by Sulloway,”  said Julia Rohrer, lead author of the study.

In terms of extraversion, emotional stability, tolerance and conscientiousness, it doesn't seem to make any difference whether you're an older or younger sibling, the researchers claim.

There's only one thing that decreases slightly in younger siblings, they found – and that's openness to new experiences.

As well as personality, researchers also used IQ test results to compare intelligence levels between older and younger siblings.

Here, they did find a difference. With every subsequent sibling after the firstborn, average IQ scores dropped.

Younger siblings shouldn't worry too much, though – with scores between siblings just 1.5 IQ points apart, the difference is “miniscule,” according to Rohrer.

The team aren't sure why exactly IQ levels differ between siblings. However, these results “don't mean that firstborn children are always cleverer,” Rohrer said. “This is just an average.”

In families with two children, the oldest child was the most intelligent in around 60 per cent of cases. In all other cases, it was the younger sibling who scored higher.

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Schools around Germany reopen as Covid numbers sink

As coronavirus figures continue to fall around Germany, several states are again opening schools in full force. Here’s where - and when - in-person classes are resuming again.

Schools around Germany reopen as Covid numbers sink
Elementary shcool pupils in Hanover returned to the classroom on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

On Monday, the countrywide 7-day incidence dropped to 35.1 per 100,000 residents, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The RKI reported 1,978 new cases in the last 24 hours, down from 2,682 a week before. 

In light of the lower numbers, many states have decided to end distance learning and alternating classes, and to return to regular classroom operations.

This marks the first time in several months – in some cases since November – that primary and secondary pupils have been able to return to full instruction.

However, mandatory face masks and coronavirus tests at least twice a week still apply to all pupils.

Where and when are schools reopening?

Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia is reopening schools with face-to-face instruction across the board on Monday.

Lower Saxony, Saarland and Hamburg are also returning to normal operation across class levels in most state regions. 

In Brandenburg, this initially applies only to elementary schools. The only exception is the city of Brandenburg/Havel, where the numbers are still considered to be too high. In a week’s time, the secondary schools are to follow suit. 

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the state with the lowest 7-day incidence nationwide (14.9 as of Monday), students began returning to classes on Thursday. 

Berlin, on the other hand, plans to stick with the alternating classes – where different groups of students attend on different days – until the summer vacations, which begin June 24th.

The capital’s mayor Michael Müller (SPD) recently pointed out that the incidence among students in the capital was higher than the average. 

Rhineland-Palatinate is also taking a cautious approach. Following the end of school holidays in a week, pupils will have two more weeks of rotating classes before everyone returns for face-to-face instruction.

From June 7th in Bavaria, if the 7-day incidence remains stable below 50, face-to-face teaching is planned everywhere. Previously this was only the case at elementary schools and some special schools. 

In Baden-Württemberg, elementary schools are to return to face-to-face instruction if the 7-day incidences remain stable between 50 and 100. 

From June 11th, this is also to apply to all students in grade five and above who are currently still in alternating instruction.

What’s the reaction?

Not everyone is happy with the way schools are reopening. On Monday the Federal Parents’ Council criticised the different approaches taken by the states. 

“It’s like it has been since the outbreak of the pandemic: each state does what it wants,” complained chairwoman Sabrina Wetzel in a statement. “We demand a uniform line on openings as well.”

For parents, the different regulations from state to state are difficult to understand, she said, adding that “it’s also unfair to the children”.

READ ALSO: German teachers call for uniform Covid rules in schools nationwide