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15 Reasons The Eldest Child Is A High Achiever

15 Reasons The Eldest Child Is A High Achiever

Did you know that the majority of Ivy League students in Harvard and other prestigious schools are firstborns or only children? How about the fact that all 12 men to have walked on the moon were either eldest or only children?

Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, JK Rowling, and Beyoncé are also all firstborn children in their families. If you are betting on which child will be a high achiever and most successful at school, you should probably place your bets on the eldest.

According to a recent study carried out at The University of Essex, eldest children are high achievers and more likely to outdo their younger siblings. While it’s dangerous to make generalizations and there are always exceptions, older siblings generally have more intelligence and success.

Here are 15 reasons why the eldest children are such high achievers.

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1. They are down-to-earth and honest.

There is not much room to cut corners for firstborns. That’s because they are expected to be role models and pacesetters for their younger brothers and sisters. The eldest child finds that they have to be more truthful, caring, and honest to prove a point to their parents (even in adulthood).

2. They are ambitious and self-driven.

As pacesetters and role models, the eldest children are programmed for excellence and achievement from a young age. They are ambitious because they have to “lead the way.” This is a powerful variable that plays an important role in a person’s drive for success, and it shows in the eldest child throughout their life.

3. They are hardy and better able to handle stress.

That’s because they’ve had to learn how to adapt and handle pressure in the family from the time they were young. The eldest child is a mini-parent in most families, especially in large ones. They are exposed to many of the challenges their parents have in raising the kids. As the younger siblings grow up, the firstborn doesn’t always get their way, equating to greater stress and a greater need to adapt even more. This process is tough, but it also helps firstborns develop thick skin — a necessary ingredient for success.

4. They are dependable and take the lead.

As mini-parents, the eldest child feels the pressure to take the lead and care for the family, especially their younger siblings. Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group), who has two younger sisters, thinks this responsibility placed on the eldest child is significant. “Firstborns are usually given the responsibility of looking after younger siblings,” he told the Financial Times, “and this can help ingrain leadership skills at a young age.

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5. They are resourceful and work harder.

That’s because they are expected to take on leadership and caregiving roles in the family. As a result, the eldest child finds that he has to work harder, be more hands-on, and be more resourceful. This resourcefulness gives firstborn children a marked edge for success throughout their life.

6. They are disciplined and consistent in manners.

Parents discipline the eldest child more strictly and often become more lenient as they have more kids, in what has been referred to as the “lazy-parent theory.” No wonder the first child always feels that younger siblings have it easier. A parent’s reputation for maintaining strict discipline with the eldest child makes the child maintain more consistent standards of discipline throughout their life.

7. They are always figuring things out on their own.

Who would blame them, really? Unlike later siblings, who have someone to pioneer and instruct them on which path to take, the eldest children have no one to teach them. They have to explore, risk, and learn most of what they know on their own. That’s not easy; however, it instills them with valuable life skills.

8. They always share the knowledge they acquire.

Firstborns feel it is their duty to diligently teach and instruct their younger siblings. In teaching the younger ones, the eldest child grows smarter in the process. This tendency to search for knowledge and teach others continues into adulthood and gives firstborns an edge. After all, knowledge is power.

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9. They are intelligent and scholarly.

Albert Einstein was also a firstborn child. It looks like his intelligence wasn’t a coincidence. Numerous studies have found that firstborns are generally more intelligent and score higher on IQ tests. History even shows that firstborns are more likely to become president. Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were all firstborns. Some people have suggested that it’s genetic, in the sense that later kids receive diminished “genetic endowment.” Whatever the reason, the eldest child tends to have a healthier brain and exhibits higher cognitive abilities.

10. They stay in education longer and are better qualified.

Feifei Bu, the PhD candidate (at the time) who led the University of Essex study, analyzed data from more than 3,500 brothers and sisters. She concludes: “My research revealed firstborn children have higher educational aspirations and this translates into higher educational attainment.” What surprised Bu the most is that the birth order effect was much stronger than the impact of gender, in terms of attainment. Even taking into account the education and professional status of their parents, the study found firstborns were 7% more likely to aspire to stay in the educational system longer than their younger siblings.

11. They get a greater share of their parents’ money to pursue their interests.

Families initially spend more money on the first child, especially when considering multiple kids. That’s because firstborns hit an early start in costly private schools, extracurricular activities, tutoring, and all the other things that increase the chances of success. This happens with no competition appearing until later when siblings emerge. When siblings are born, the eldest child may lose their privileged run. Of course, the number of years between children is an important variable in this situation.

12. They are less likely to do drugs.

Studies have found that firstborns are less likely to do drugs and get pregnant at a young age. Although these two realities are not always impediments to success, they account for something.

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13. They are less likely to have their formative years disrupted by divorce.

Divorce is common in today’s society, but it is more likely to happen after the first child is past their formative years. The first child arrives into a stable family where the parents are still blossoming in love. Later children may not be so lucky. They are more likely to be disrupted by a family crisis.

14. They enjoy their parents’ first and purest love.

Parents tend to love and devote more time and care to their eldest child because it’s their first child. The eldest children are the delicate babies carried around and breastfed most of the time. Not to mention they are the ones who are constantly watched over to make sure they are breathing in their crib. The first child is the only one that ever truly has their parents completely to themselves, while all other children have to share. This has a positive impact on the firstborn’s self-worth and self esteem throughout their life.

15. They get the most mature treatment.

Parents pay a different kind of attention to the eldest child, giving them the most mature treatment. The theory is that if you treat a child like an adult, they will respond the same way. That explains why, even in adulthood, firstborns come across as more mature and accomplished. V. Joseph Hotz, a research associate of the Duke Population Research Institute observes that, “Reputations matter for politicians, teachers, and even used car salesmen.” Being perceived as mature, responsible, and reputable is a critical factor for high achievement and success in life.

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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