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Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Birth Order

There used to be considerable discussion about the relationship between intelligence and position of the children in the family. Standardised tests of intelligence were used to measure the ability of the children. Birth order, naturally, was a lot easier to work out. (A child born second is likely to remain second – unless families join up.)

The expectation was the birth order would be paralleled by either ascending or descending order of intelligence.

Like all great theories the weight of conflicting evidence indicated that it is likely that there was no great difference – the eldest was not always the most brilliant or the most dominant. The youngest did not have to be the most dependent, unhappy or conceited.

The word `antagonistic’ springs to mind. One take on this word could be to do with conflict within the family - where siblings are willing to fight it out. It would be very difficult for the first born – with a place in grammar school – to want to help the second or third born if there was daily tension and unruly striving for dominance.

“Please help me with this analogies question?”
“Get lost. You are always whining and whinging about everything I do.”
“Oh please? I will try harder.”
“You said that last time.”
“I will tell mum and dad.”
“You really are a loser. Bring it here.”

One day someone may want to initiate a study on the relationship between a normal family and ability to pass eleven plus examinations. If there can be any agreement about what constitutes a `normal’ family – then the research may go ahead.  We can work out which children do win places in grammar schools – but the composition of a `normal family’ may be a little more difficult to define.

Until then most of us will just have to muddle along with our own theories about who is the bright spark, with the greatest potential, in the family.