First-born children given 3,000 hours more quality parent time

Evening Standard (UK) 17 Feb 08

They may not realise that they are doing it, but parents spend an extra 3,000 hours of quality time with their first-born child than with subsequent children. First-born children perform better at school and even earn more money later in life as a result of the added attention, a study claims. The findings are likely to surprise families who believe they are treating all their children equally, regardless of age. The study found that parents do appear to spend approximately equal amounts of time with all their children on any particular day. However, when the total number of hours spent with each child between their fourth and 14th birthdays is totted up, the younger siblings lose out by around 3,000 hours, or 125 days.

Joseph Price, economics professor at Utah’s Brigham Young University, conducted the analysis, which appears in the new issue of the Journal of Human Resources. He studied data from the American Time Use Survey, a federal government study involving 21,000 people, and compared hours spent by families on their children. Professor Price believes the difference is because the amount of time parents spend with children on a daily basis declines as families get older. First-born children get more attention simply because they pass through childhood when there is more overall family time to be shared.