Science confirms what we always suspected about our little brothers

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Kayleigh Dray
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Older siblings certainly have had good reason to feel smug of late: not only has science deemed us smarter, nicer, and more outgoing than our little brothers and sisters, but now experts have put their heads together to confirm yet another of our long-held suspicions.

And it’s guaranteed to put a great big smile on the face of anyone with a perpetually naughty little brother.

Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we moaned about our little brother’s bad behaviour to our mums/dads/any nearby grown-ups.

“He cut off all of Barbie’s hair,” we’d tell them, pointing to the little creep as he sniggered in the corner. “He flicked a bogey at me! He farted on my pillow! He read my DIARY!”

And, for years, those beleaguered adults gave us the same lacklustre answers: “He’s your little brother. He loves you. He didn’t mean it. It was an accident. Can’t you see I’m on the phone/cooking dinner/in the middle of something important?”



Well, as it turns out, the adults were right: the little pest probably didn’t mean it. In fact, he probably couldn’t help himself from being bad – because scientists have now proven that many little brothers are genuinely born naughty.

That is to say, they’re born naughtier than anyone else in their family.

A team of researchers examined some particularly rich datasets from Denmark and the state of Florida to find out more about “the role of birth order on delinquency outcomes such as disciplinary problems in school, juvenile delinquency, and adult crime”.

The results were… well, they were slightly damning, we suppose.

Writing about their findings (in their aptly titled report, Birth Order and Delinquency), the scientists explained: “In families with two or more children, second-born boys are on the order of 20 to 40% more likely to be disciplined in school and enter the criminal justice system compared to first-born boys even when we compare siblings.”

It’s not all bad news for our little bros, though: they, just like our little sisters, are (apparently) way funnier and more laidback than we are.

Researchers explained: “The most significant difference is in feeling the burden of responsibility – most (54%) firstborns say they are more responsible than their siblings, compared to 31% of last-borns.

“Younger siblings, on the other hand, are more likely to say they are more funny (46% compared to 36% of elder siblings), more easy going and more relaxed.”

They added that this is down to the undeniable “family forces at work”, stressing the fact that “parental attention soon shifts onto new arrivals, and firstborns may have to learn the ropes themselves”.

Researchers concluded that, as a result of being asked to ‘keep an eye’ on their baby bro or sis (not to mention a teeny bit sidelined by the new arrival), “elder siblings are more likely to feel more organised and able to prioritise their own lives. Likewise, younger siblings are more likely to feel more favoured by their parents.”

Or, to put it in layman’s terms, everyone loves to spoil the baby of the family.

Hmm. Well, we may not be as funny as they are – but at least now we can bandy around the term delinquency at family dinners, eh?

Images: Disney/YouTube / Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.