We have a thing called "middle child syndrome" where in some cases of social and psychological behaviour in adults, growing up as the kid in the middle of a family of older and younger siblings has created problems in later life. We have also understood the pros and vast cons of being an only child, even being one of ten kids can have it's difficulties, yet it seems that there is another fault many parents have to contend with, or at least, blame themselves for (as if parents don't have enough of that) and that's guilt of being too tough on the oldest kid.
A new study in America, published in The Economical Journal, has found that the oldest child in the average family have a tougher time growing up than any of the other children born afterwards. It appears that the oldest child comes under greater fire and harder discipline when growing up in the family unit, whereas parents tend to be more relaxed on younger children in the family and even allow them to get away with murder, when it comes to behaviour.
So it would be about right when we hear in the news and particularly in TV shows when we repeatedly see the younger or youngest child of the family being the most cheeky, naughty and likely to get into serious trouble.
So we are too hard on the oldest child, across the world - we are more likely to stop their allowances, ground them and generally make them work too hard on school work or pocket money Saturday jobs, than we would on the next child down and even the next child after that, in fact, the youngest could set alight to the living room rug and we would forgive them, but why?
We are stone guilty of using our oldest one, and why? Because we use the first born as a punch bag, for want of a better term - we use them as an example, and a yardstick, to teach the others below what it means when us parents get angry and even, or at least, this is what the experts say.
According to one of these experts, Professor Joseph Hotz at the Duke University, who himself could come under the "middle child syndrome" category, said,
"My older sister always complains that she never got away with anything when she was growing up, and we all agree that my younger sister got away with murder. That's the story of this paper - tough love."
Yet all this "tough love" does not necessarily turn out well rounded and happy adults. After careful analysis, chaps in white coats at the National Longitudinal Study of Youth
, discovered that these poor, 'first out of the block' children were more likely thrown into the darkest realms of independence left to fend for themselves than younger children in the pack who were given financial help and support in the their first taste of adulthood.
Yet of course, what happens as a result of this is that younger children are more likely to try drugs and crime simply because their parents are too soft of them. There seems to be rather a double edged sword here - as parents we are too tough on one and too soft in the other - in turn, we have a an older child who cuts us off completely in adulthood and a younger child who is in and out of drug rehab and jail, as usual, us parents can't win.
Also authoring the shuddering report, Ginger Zhe Jin, who is the assistant professor of economics at the University of Maryland, told new reports of the finds,
"Tender-hearted parents find it harder and harder to engage in 'tough love' since, as they have fewer young children in the house, they have less incentive to uphold reputations as disciplinarians. As a result, the theory predicts that last-born and only children, knowing that they can get away with much more than their older brothers and sisters, are, on average, more likely to engage in risky behaviour."
So there you have it - it is better to have just one perhaps, and face a child who just won't ever leave....