Entries in Siblings (3)


Age Space Between Siblings Contributes to Academic Success

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) - Want to get your kids to the top of the class? One economist says the secret may lie in the age gaps between siblings. Having at least two years between brothers and sisters makes for better math and reading scores.

Kasey Buckles, an economist at University of Notre Dame, and Notre Dame graduate student Elizabeth Munnich surveyed more than 12,000 people between the ages of 14 and 22 from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The research, published in the Journal of Human Resources, found that when age gaps between siblings were greater, the older child performed better on math and reading achievement tests. Low-income families benefited most from age spacing. First-born siblings also showed the most benefit when there were greater age gaps.

“On average, a one-year increase in spacing improves reading test scores by 0.17 standard deviations, and there seems to be an even greater benefit to avoiding spacing of less than two years,” said Buckles, who has two children, two years and two months apart. “We find no evidence that the spacing affects the test scores of the younger sibling.”

Study authors said parents read to the older sibling and watched less TV when the age spacing was greater.

Parents who consider having more children often wonder whether it’s better to have them closer together in age or further apart, said Buckles. Some believe kids should be close in age so they can play together, but others suggest more space so that the older child can become more independent.

The study confirms that the more productive time parents spend with their children, the more advanced the kids’ academic achievement will be, said Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. It is easier to spend productive time with one child, one-on-one, than with multiple children, which could explain the findings.

Children’s language normally flourishes in the second year of life. They go from one or two words at age 1 to at least 50 words by age two, and then hundreds of words by age 3 with properly constructed sentences, said Briggs.

“The single biggest predictor of child vocabulary size at age 3 is number of words spoken to the child before that time,” said Briggs. “If parents are spending most of their time with an infant, it’s likely that their spoken language to the first child, right in the middle of their language explosion, is decreased.”

But before all of you siblings close in age get into a panic about sibling ages, Briggs said randomized clinical trials with families perfectly matched in everything from health to finances are needed to substantiate the results.

“It is the age old 'correlation does not equal causation,’” said Briggs.

No matter the age spacing, Briggs said if parents want to make sure their kids are on path to academic achievement, “read to your child, read to your child, read to your child. Talk to you child, talk to your child, talk to your child from day one. Expose your child to the learning opportunities present in every day interactions.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Sibling Effect': Mom Has a Favorite and Birth Order Counts

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Brotherly love -- and its accompanying intense rivalry -- is a topic close to Jeffrey Kluger's heart.

In his latest book, The Sibling Effect, Time's senior science writer takes a scientific -- and personal -- look at what he calls the "last unexplored frontier of family relationships."

Kluger and his three brothers propped each other up emotionally throughout the multiple divorces of their unstable parents.  Their prescription drug-addicted mother was married twice, bringing two stepsisters into the mix. Their volatile father also remarried and had fraternal twins, giving them two half siblings.

"One of the points I make in the book that when the parents, who should be the anchors of the family, come unmoored, the kids do what people do in a fox hole," he told ABC News. "We pull together."

Kluger notes that siblings are the ones, of all relatives, who share the longest stretch of time on earth.

"Our spouses and children arrive comparatively too late in our lives; our parents leave us too early," according to Kluger, who quotes family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis.  "Our brothers and sisters are with us for the whole journey."

The book, a memoir woven with relevant scientific research, explores every imaginable aspect of the sibling relationship: favoritism, birth order and even why brothers and sisters are not sexually attracted to each other.

Not only do our siblings smell too familiar to have sex with them, explains Kluger, they are a product of the "kibbutz effect," where growing up in close quarters tends to kill any physical attraction.

Siblings are by nature -- and he provides many examples from the animal world -- genetically programmed to be a "team of rivals."

Kluger confirms earlier research that shows first-borns and "singletons" do, indeed, reign supreme.  Both groups are smarter and more economically and emotionally successful than the middle child or the baby.  But he also debunks some long held myths.  For starters, all parents have favorites.

"One message I have for parents is that they should quit feeling guilty about having a favorite," he writes.  "I like to say that 99 percent of all parents do have a favorite child and the other one percent are lying through their teeth."

Kluger also says fighting is nature's way of competing for food and our parents' attention.

"We are also genetically driven to show off our strength and general fitness -- another way to ensure that our parents will love us and look after us," he said.

Not surprisingly, even well-adjusted children ages 3 to 5 will have up to seven fights an hour.

Kluger also addresses the much-maligned only child.  Not only are they smarter, but they are more self-sufficient and have more "sophistication," because of all the adult company.  With modern day care and play dates, many get just as much socialization as children with siblings.

"They are living in a world in which no one cares about picking sides, where there is no favorite," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Siblings Face High Recurrence Risk for Autism

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(DAVIS, Calif.) -- Infants who have siblings with autism have a three to 10 percent increased risk for autism -- a higher chance than the one percent risk among the general population.  But a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics now suggests the risk is higher than previously thought.

The study, considered the largest autism study to follow infants for sibling recurrence, found that infants with an older autistic sibling have a near 19 percent risk that they too will develop the disorder.

"We were surprised and distressed to see how high the recurrence risk is," said Sally Ozonoff, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the MIND Institute at University of California Davis.

Researchers from 12 different sites across the U.S. and Canada followed 664 infants with at least one older sibling diagnosed with autism.  Within three years, nearly 19 percent of the infants were diagnosed with autism.  Thirty-two percent of those infants who had more than one sibling with autism were also diagnosed with the disorder.

And the risk of autism nearly doubled for male infants, the study found.

Since there are several risk factors for autism that could include genetic markers, an individual family's risk differs, Ozonoff said.

In fact, many parents overestimate the recurrence risk.  Ozonoff said that in her clinic, many parents predict as high as 50 percent likelihood that their subsequent child will have autism.

"For parents, it's awareness and a more accurate estimate," said Ozonoff.

These findings could help parents who may be considering another child understand their overall quantifiable risk of autism recurrence.  But these findings do not mean that every family is at the higher spectrum of risk, Ozonoff said.

Ozonoff said the findings could also change the way pediatricians examine infants with familial risk for autism.

"These children need careful monitoring and special surveillance [more] than what would be done at a well child visit," said Ozonoff.

A closer look at infants at higher risk could lead to earlier detection of autism symptoms, Ozonoff said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio