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Image / Editorial

If You’ve got A Smart Older Sibling, You’re Sorted


by IMAGE
16th Jan 2017
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If you’ve grown up with an intelligent and able older sibling, chances are, you’ll have benefited greatly from their brilliance. Yes, instead of bemoaning the fact that ‘they got all the brains’ (don’t worry, you’re the ‘creative’ one, or so my mother tells me), a new study says you should really be thanking your elder siblings for your lot in life. If they did well in school, it will have had a spill-over effect on you.

Researchers at The University of Essex and the University of York decided to investigate this ‘sibling spillover’ effect by studying primary school test results and GCSE schools. The data recorded showed that having a smart older brother or sister who does well in school actually boosted a child’s learning with the equivalent effect of spending an extra €670 on the younger sibling’s schooling.

Older siblings, they found, play a hugely significant role in educating their younger brothers and sisters, especially if the older sibling helps them with their studies or if that younger sibling hopes to be more like them.

Furthermore, when the older sibling does well in exams, this encourages the younger ones to up their game and work that bit harder.

One of the study’s authors Birgitta Rabe explained that: the older sibling’s achievement may have a direct effect on the younger sibling’s school grades. If the older sibling teaches the younger sibling or helps with homework then the younger sibling imitates the older sibling, for example in their work style. Or, conversely, the younger sibling tries to be different to avoid competition. The older sibling also passes on important information about educational choices or school and teachers to the younger sibling.

“We find that the spillover effect is larger for siblings in families eligible for free school meals, living in deprived neighbourhoods and speaking a language other than English at home”, says Rabe. “This means that children from more deprived backgrounds benefit more from a high attaining older sibling than children from more affluent backgrounds.”