Parents are always stricter with older kids

April 18th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, April 18 (IANS) Parents are more inclined to punish their teen’s risky behaviour when there are younger kids in the family, just to set an example, according to a new research. “Interestingly, the youngest sibling, knowing that they can get away with much more than their older brothers and sisters, are more likely to engage in risky behaviours,” said Ginger Gin, one of the study’s co-authors, a parent of two and herself an older sister.

Researchers used economic game theory to predict levels of parental discipline. Parents seemed to be motivated by their ‘reputation’ as a disciplinarian.

Likewise older children also expect stronger penalties because they know their parents are making an example of them.

But as the younger siblings grow up and the “games” get played out a second or third time, the parent’s resolve tends to dwindle, the researchers said.

“Tender-hearted parents find it harder and harder to engage in ‘tough love’ as they have fewer young children in the house, since they have less incentive to uphold reputations as disciplinarians,” said Gin, from the University of Maryland.

Speaking from personal experience, Gin added: “We became stricter with our son after our daughter was born”.

“My older sister always complains that she never got away with anything when she was growing up, and we all agree that my youngest sister got away with murder,” said V. Joseph Hotz (Duke), who was the third of five siblings and is now the parent of two grown children. “That’s the story of this study.”

The study, “Games Parents and Adolescents Play”, is co-authored by Hotz of Duke University, Lingxin Hao of Johns Hopkins and Gin at Maryland.

“Their study, published in the April edition of the Economic Journal, concludes that the exercise of parental control is effective in modifying risky adolescent behaviour.

They analysed existing survey data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. The National Longitudinal Study of Youth tracked more than 11,000 Americans for over 16 years (1979 to 1994).

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