Document Detail

The birth order puzzle.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  501518     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Studies relating intellectual performance to birth order report conflicting results, some finding intellectual scores to increase, others to decrease with birth order. In contrast, the relationship between intellectual performance and family size is stable and consistently replicable. Why do these two highly related variables generate such divergent results? This birth order puzzle is resolved by means of the confluence model that quantifies the influences upon intellectual growth arising within the family context. At the time of a new birth, two opposing influences act upon intellectual growth of the elder sibling: (a) his or her intellectual environment is "diluted" and (b) he or she loses the "last-born's handicap" and begins serving as an intellectual resource to the younger sibling. Since these opposite effects are not equal in magnitude, the differences in intellectual performance among birth ranks are shown to be age dependent. While elder children may surpass their younger siblings in intellectual performance at some ages, they may be overtaken by them at others. Thus when age is taken into consideration, the birth order literature loses its chaotic character and an orderly pattern of results emerges.
R B Zajonc; H Markus; G B Markus
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of personality and social psychology     Volume:  37     ISSN:  0022-3514     ISO Abbreviation:  J Pers Soc Psychol     Publication Date:  1979 Aug 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1980-01-19     Completed Date:  1980-01-19     Revised Date:  2009-11-11    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0014171     Medline TA:  J Pers Soc Psychol     Country:  UNITED STATES    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  1325-41     Citation Subset:  IM; J    
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MeSH Terms
Birth Order*
Child Development
Child, Preschool
Infant, Newborn
Social Environment

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