Is your first-born really destined to be smarter?

More than one study has been conducted to determine whether the old saying is true: the first-born child is smarter than the rest. A new study shows that first-born children do indeed perform better in the classroom and on tests. Why? Well, it's because of you.

A study entitled "Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance," conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that parent involvement was the central reason behind the academic success of first-born children. In other words, parents have higher expectations for their first child, and impose more stringent standards and disciplinary measures on these children. Furthermore, most are shown to take a more relaxed approach and in general aren't as hard on later-born children.

Some doctors may wryly notice a correlation to the way moms behave during their first pregnancy as compared to any subsequent pregnancies. In general, moms tend to be more relaxed the second time around.

According to the study, first-born children had a 33.8 percent chance of being among the best students in a classroom, and 25.1 percent were reported to be above the middle. Second, third and fourth children, on the other hand, were more likely to be found "in the middle" of performers.

The data analyzed by study authors, economists V. Joseph Hotz and Juan Pantano, showed that first-born children tend to get the most active parenting, resulting in better performance in school and other areas as well, such as athletics.

Shouldn't practice make perfect?
To some, the results of the study may seem counterintuitive, as parents should get better with experience. There are a number of theories as to why this isn't always the case.

One of the most popular is the divided-attention theory, according to The Atlantic. First-born children automatically receive more attention in the early stages because they're the only ones present. Similarly, when they arrive in first grade, they're the only ones who require help with school, and thus receive this added attention. Because they're the first to arrive at every stage, they receive more attention. By the time child number two arrives, parents are also helping the firstborn as they reach a brand new stage.

Another theory is dubbed "the lazy parent" theory. This theory doesn't assume that parents are behaving in a neglectful manner, but rather that they are simply more relaxed by the time they raise their second, third and even fourth child. In essence, new parents are so nervous about "screwing up" a brand new human being that they are fanatic about doing everything right - from eating right and exercising during pregnancy in order to ensure proper baby development, to drilling their child with flashcards in the first grade. However, by the time child number two arrives, most parents have succumbed to the belief that there is no "perfect" way to parent, and that it's all right to take it easy on the children every once in a while.

There are a number of other theories as to why the first child receives the lion's share of the attention, and more than one may be correct. The bottom line is that - first, second or third - as long as the child is in a caring and involved household, he or she is likely to turn out just fine.

Do you think there's something to this first-born theory, or is it more likely attributed to chance? Let us know your opinion in the comments section.