Thursday, December 4, 2008

Counting Minutes

This article in BYU Magazine outlines research that quantifies how much less time second children get from their parents than first children do. Answer: 20-30 minutes a day. That's 3,000 hours between the ages of 4 and 13. The authors hypothesize that the time differential explains why first-borns are generally higher achievers than second borns. (My take on that: Any extra achievement from first-borns is due to their hyper-developed sense of duty and guilt.)

The sad, brutal truth is that my second-born gets a lot less attention than my first-born. And El Segundo knows it and is bitterly unhappy about it. I spend so much time helping Roscoe forge new territory with each new age, and then I let Logan trundle along in Roscoe's trough.

(On the other hand, Logan was the baby for 4 1/2 years, longer than any other child, and we adored every move he made the whole time.)

Here's what I feel is never accounted for in studies of how poorly successive children fare. Maybe number 2 got 20-30 minutes less attention from me. But how many minutes of interaction did he get from his siblings? Hours and hours and hours.

So let's do the math: Subtract less meaningful interactions, like watching TV together or parallel play. Let's guess--very conservatively--that leaves 90 minutes of a day of high-quality conversation, playing, problem-solving, and sharing between siblings. And then let's rate the quality of sibling-to-sibling interaction as only 50% of that of parent-to-child interaction. In that scenario, child number 2 gets 15-25 more minutes of quality interaction each day than child number 1.

Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I think older siblings are a great gift to a child.


  1. I so totally agree. And yet I feel guilty because poor #2 doesn't KNOW, at this point in his life, that he's getting a good deal still. He only sees his Mommy-time going down at the birth of #3. *Sigh* But we know, right?

  2. I hope there's something right in all of that. #2 never feels like there's enough time with parents. She would be such a good only child. Sadly thogh it's #3 that has earned my complete focus this school year. He's so mellow and passive that he gets sucked into that "middle child" role easily. He tends to get lost between the oldest, the youngest, and the only girl. Poor guy...what am I taking about?! Any great parenting tips for that one Angela?

  3. As an oldest child, I agree. I can give my younger siblings all sorts of good advice about college apps, job hunting, true love, stain removal, etc. that I had to figure out on my own or ask the parents who hadn't been where I was for much longer.

  4. I am hoping as they get older you are right because for now all I see as far as attention #2 is getting from #1 is negative. I swear I remember PLAYING with my siblings at this age. Don't they start fighting when they are teenagers. HELP!! It doesn't help that Zach thinks wrestling is playing. Zach needs Jesse over here more with those kung fu moves he is so good at.