Inequality in Mental Health: The Privileges of the Youngest Child in The Family

Being born last gives you an “advantage” in your brain and time. Inequality in the resources of mental externalities is real and can make predictions in the personality you turn out to form, it all extends back from childhood. What place-in-line you were born in can predict how you view life and your mental health.

Note: The “Advantages” in the subheadline is not fully true. These are not advantages, rather things that make you unique; that many children born last are unique with. I want to describe my experience and what I assume many other youngest children have in common, not all, and obviously culture, and family culture, differ, but statistically, many people like me are out there.

The youngest child doesn’t bother to do a lot of housework, or help dad with the car, or work for the family that much. Especially if the family has more than 2 siblings. There’s only so much you can do. Sure, some families created systems that share all laundry, dishwasher loading, drying, cleaning to all siblings. But in my family, my mother did most of the work as the hero she is. We are 4 brothers. When dad asked to carry something, to get hanged clothes from the outside, to carry a couch out: They have 3 men to do the job before they get to me. Surely, the youngest, at least in my culture, can be told to do the groceries quite often. But the youngest child definitely has the privilege of time and lack of interruptions. It was often the last option for my parents for me to drive them somewhere. And as the youngest child, older siblings get responsible to drive you places: That does something to a person. The lack of interruption (And responsibility) defines the mental health and may aid the development of focus for the person, or more curiosity in the arts, or knowledge, sometimes though, crime, and low-self-esteem because of increased peer-based identification of self-worth: They don’t have as many tasks, they are not smiled upon by parents for doing something, they look for that validation somewhere else. They are free to stay in their room, to read, to learn more, to mentally develop more. And it changes people forever. If you do handwork, you learn different skills than if you’re in your room free to read: So you do lack certain skills and develop others: This is why this is less of a privilege, more of a fundamental difference in the personality that results, just by being born in a different place in line.

Parents are older, which means they probably figured out ways to get more money and, more importantly, more experience in their C.V. makes for a bigger salary. And Tax cuts for having kids helps. Parents, because they had more time, also now own more resources, both intelligence-wise in the raising of kids, but also more owned things, furniture, perhaps not a studio now, but an apartment, etc. Things differ, sometimes parents develop an alcoholism and their resources go down.

Younger siblings in the line will have money for sports, for private schooling, for music lessons, for instruments, for books. They will have more knowledge from their parents.

More money also equals less stress, less destabilization from moving in and out of houses and cities for a stable job. Stress in the parents and immediate environment to the child is the main cause of ADHD and anxiety. So the later a child comes to life, the more stable they are likely to become. Especially in our career-oriented culture that makes people in their 20s and 30s very anxious about their security, until they hit their 40s and they start to not care what people think about them, a sort of hit of reality, a mid-life crisis reminding them of the importance of their own decisions and lives and be selfish for themselves, less attention to anxiety to please peers. I heard that in a podcast of an old woman writer in “CTLT ALT DEL,” saying how her 40s were when she became selfish, understood that conventions are made by society, and they don’t work for everyone, and she understood her right to break conventions, to make things work for her, like the people who made those conventions made them to please themselves.

“Considerable research focuses on how poverty “gets under the skin.”
Some mechanisms are human specific — if you’re poor, you’re more likely to grow up near environmental toxins,* in a dangerous neighborhood with more liquor stores than markets selling produce; you’re less likely to attend a good school or have parents with time to read to you. Your community is likely to have poor social capital, and you, poor self-esteem. But part of the link reflects the corrosive effects of subordination in all hierarchical species. For example, having a low-ranking mother predicts elevated glucocorticoids in adulthood in baboons.” — Behave, the Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, 2016

The youngest sibling is the parents’ favorite. The oldest sibling will have to endure more emotional pain. They are expected to behave much better and standards are high. They are the parents’ first experiment. This is not to say oldest siblings don't have advantages when it’s just them in the first years of life, they get all the attention, they also have more practical life skills because they’re learned a lot.

If you’re the oldest sibling, and a new baby comes along, you become responsible. A new person is now getting all the attention, and mom thinks you’re particularly good if you help bring diapers to the baby: You become more responsible. You are told to share resources. You are told to give mom space and help. And that changes a person. The youngest child will be the last one in that relationship dynamic: They get the shared resources. They don’t grow as responsible as they should be. But they dodge the stress to be responsible, sometimes that reinforcement makes one more responsible than they ever wanted to be, perhaps compulsively responsible, and perhaps anxious for success and attention, that was lost to the youngest sibling during childhood.

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