Does The Second Child Suffer?

Second child syndrome

You’ve got to feel sorry for second children. Or have you? They get less of you – your time, energy and attention – but they are likely to be more confident in the end.

With your first baby, you couldn’t be more attentive: signing up to NCT the day you find out you’re pregnant, tracking the weeks and reading all the books. Then baby arrives and you attend baby massage and whatever other class you can, determined to do the very best by your child. New-parenthood is a project you’re determined to ace.

You fill their baby book with key measurements, dates and locks of hair, have their feet cast in plaster (or bronze, if you’re feeling flush), and clog your hard drive and Facebook feed with the pictures that you can’t stop taking.

Then the second child comes along. And let’s just say your standards get a little lax. This time around there’s no baby yoga, Gymboree or Kindermusic. Whereas first time around you worried about the right time to wean, and whether or not they could eat nuts, this time you almost completely forget to fret. Frankly, they’re lucky if they get their hair washed once a week.

SEE ALSO: How (and why) to raise independent children

But it’s not all bad news. This benign neglect can have a positive effect on your second child. A study published in the journal Child Development suggests that first-born children are likely to be conformist, while second-born children tend to be more independent and adventurous. They’re often confident, too, being more used to battling for attention. The downside? They tend to rebel…

1o signs that you are suffering from ‘second child syndrome’: 

  1. You buy them a baby book and then leave every page blank
  2. Rather than carefully sterilise their bottles, you shove them in the dishwasher.
  3. You stick them in the tiny box room.
  4. They only wear their sibling’s holey cast-offs.
  5. The first child has a personalised hooded bath towel and teddy bear, and a wooden train that spells out his name. The second child may or may not own a toothbrush.
  6. You agonise over which school will suit your first child, then send the second one wherever the first one goes.
  7. You find yourself with 12,000 photographs of the first child and 12 of the second.
  8. You carefully ration the first-born’s TV, making sure it’s appropriate and that they don’t watch too much. The second, meanwhile, skips CBeebies entirely in favour of the trashy commercial channels his older sibling likes.
  9. With the first, you avidly track every developmental milestone, stressing endlessly about whether they’ve reached it at the right time. You miss the second one’s first parents evening.
  10. You spend weeks getting your first child into a routine, ruining lunch plans and, often, friendships to accommodate them. The second simply has to fit in with everybody else.
Alex Manson-Smith is a journalist, copywriter and blogger, and regular contributor to Mr Fox. She has two sons, aged 5 and 2.