INTRODUCTIONBirth order has been studied for many years as a factor that plays a part in an individual`s intelligence. In general, not much has been looked into concerning birth order and education. Firstborns and children born later have many circumstances, within the family unit, that affects the development of strengths and weaknesses and ultimately influence their personality traits. Parents are often overly anxious about their first child and may be more restrictive with them than with later children (Eisenman, 1992). Birth order theory holds that children develop their behavioral patterns largely as a result of their position within their family (Morales, 1994).
Intellectually, firstborns have been found to have larger receptive vocabularies than later born children, but that later borns may have better conversational skills than firstborns (Coates & Messer, 1996). Social interactions experienced by later born children are characterized by less supportive and more directional communication than firstborn. These less supportive interactions may result in later born children having smaller vocabularies (Coates & Messer, 1995). The study of interactions among intellectual performance, family size, and birth order according to R.B. Zajonc`s (1976), predicts an additive decrease in intellectual performance with increasing family size, and birth rank. Studies have shown that firstborns hold memberships in more organizations and demonstrated a significantly higher GPA than later borns (Nelson & Harris, 1995). As such, education would be directly affected by these achievements.
Firstborns tend to be different, some of the time, than children born into other birth orders. This may be due to the early parental treatment received. The firstborn has more time alone with the parents than the later born children, by virtue of having no siblings until the second child is born. The early adult oriented styles learned when they had only the parents and no other siblings would account for the anxiety, achievement, and creativity of some firstborns (Eisenman, 1992).
Cooperative learning groups may be one of the best methods teachers can employ to promote the social and psychological development of their students. Birth Order Theory provides a frame of reference with regard to students` social and psychological characteristics. Therefore, a blending of the information from both of these areas, cooperative learning and Birth Order theory, provides teachers with the knowledge necessary for developing an effective learning environment conducive to a students` total growth and development (Morales, 1994).
Children`s perception of the influence of parental and sibling responsiveness and support differs by birth order. For firstborn children, second born sibling warmth was a stronger predictor of self perceptions than maternal warmth and responsiveness. Mothers` influence on firstborn children`s self perceptions was mainly indirect and occurred by influencing second born siblings` warmth, which than influenced the firstborn children`s perceptions of intellectual and physical abilities, self-assurance, and happiness (Barnes, 1995). The order of a person`s birth has a lasting impact on personal development. Studies have indicated a strong relationship between birth order and perception of favoritism, where there is clearly a tendency for favoritism to be perceived from the opposite-sex parent (Chalfant, 1994). Findings about the connections between differential treatment and children`s sibling relationships also were consistent in showing equal treatment by both parents has the most positive correlates (McHale, 1995).
The bias in favor of or against a particular birth position seems to be linked to personality traits found distinctive to that position. Regardless of sex, the firstborn was viewed as the most favored birth position, followed by the middle, youngest, and only child positions (Nyman, 1995). Problems of adjustment are associated with each of the ordinal positions, and birth order concepts offer teachers a psychological frame of reference to assist them in understanding the children in their classroom. Sibling rivalry, self-esteem, competition, peer relationships, and fear of failure are all concepts relevant to a child`s birth order (Romeo, 1994). Differences in family size and birth order were found in adolescents` achievement and perceptions of parenting style and parental involvement but not in parents perceptions of parenting. Professionals tend to look at the parents as the primary influence when it comes to different child behaviors. These generalizations may be based on current trends and perceptions about families, when actually some are research based and some are not, may influence achievement. Exploration of different variables, such as social relationships with peers and relationships with siblings, may be at least partly responsible for differences in achievement that have been found (Sputa & Paulson, 1995).
Findings that suggest associations of psychological birth order and measures of lifestyle but not actual birth order with measured lifestyle, suggest that psychological birth order may be more descriptive of individuals in defining life positions than is actual birth order. The variables are related to the way in which people make meaning of their worlds. These constructs are reflective of early decisions about oneself so that psychological birth order characteristics should show a pattern of relationships with measured lifestyle characteristics (White, Campbell & Stewart, 1995).
The purpose of this study is to see if an individuals` birth order is a determining factor affecting their educational level. More specifically, does the eldest child tend to have the highest degree of education in the family?
Sixty questionnaires were distributed in various locations including shopping malls, hospitals, and nursing homes. The participants included anyone willing to fill out the questionnaire including residents, visitors, or employees. To get a representative sampling it was necessary to collect data from a very wide range of people of various nationalities, incomes, educational levels, and backgrounds. All participants were treated in accordance with the "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Conduct" (American Psychological Association, 1992).
The survey was composed of a pen and paper questionnaire with two parts. First, it included a section with demographic questions involving themselves and family members, to assess birth order and education. Secondly, there were approximately 10 filler questions. A one-way between subjects ANOVA was used to determine the correlation between birth order and education level. Questions on this survey were forced choice and branching format.
Questionnaires were handed out to 60 individuals in several different locations. These locations included shopping malls, hospitals, and nursing homes. The individuals were randomly selected, that I did not know, were from a wide range of nationalities, incomes, educational levels, and backgrounds. The participants were instructed to complete the two parts to the questionnaire that were self-explanatory. A name was not ask for, to protect their privacy. The first section on the questionnaire includes the age and birth order questions, followed by approximately ten rank ordered filler questions on self esteem. After the completion of the questions, I briefly explained my interest in finding out if there is a correlation between birth order and education; and therefore, part of the questions were not pertinent to my study. The questionnaires were hand scored and entered into the computer without any identifying information.
A one way between subjects ANOVA was used to analyze the data on birth order and education. There was no significance between birth order and educational level (F(3,54)=.477,p=.70). Specifically, there was no significance between the eldest child and the highest degree of education completed. However, findings did show a strong correlation between the degree of education between the father and mother. The total mean score for only children was 14.00, youngest children was 13.91, middle children was 14.28, and eldest children was 13.46, with 12.00 indicating 12th grade high school level.
The purpose of this study was to look at birth order and education in the general population and see if there is a correlation between eldest children and higher education opposed to later born children. Specifically, is there a correlation between birth order and the degree of education that is completed. Contrary to my hypothesis, the findings of this study did not indicate a significant relationship between birth order and education. The findings did however, show a strong correlation between the degree of education between the father and mother
Although this was not hypothesized, this may reflect that lifestyle, as determined by education, might be a strong determining factor in choosing a life time partner. Findings that suggest associations of psychological birth order and measures of lifestyle, but not actual birth order with measured lifestyle, suggest that psychological birth order may be more descriptive of individuals in defining life positions than actual birth order according to White, Campbell, & Stewart, 1995. These variables are related in the way in which people make meaning of their worlds. These constructs are reflective of early decisions about oneself, showing that psychological birth order characteristics should show a pattern of relationships with measured lifestyle characteristics.
The study was confined to a small sample of sixty people. A much larger sample would be necessary to show a possible significance in the general population in the area of birth order and education.
There has been very little research done in the area of birth order and education. Rather, birth order and intelligence appears to have been studied the most. Possibly a future study involving birth order, education, and intelligence would reflect a stronger relationship between all three variables. A look at the degree of education of a child in comparison to the degree of education of the parents may also prove to show significance.
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