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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Two-child families best at school
Playgroup
Only children are not the star performers at school
Children who have one brother or sister perform better at school than only children or those from bigger families, suggest researchers.

An analysis of exam results carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University concludes that the two-child family is the most successful in academic terms.

This overturns assumptions that only children, who have no competition for parental attention, would perform better in school than those from families with more than one child.

The report, Family Composition and Children's Educational Outcomes, says that the most advantageous position in terms of siblings, is to be the oldest in a family of two children.

Head start

Researchers say that in larger families, each extra child above two is associated with a fall in academic performance - with the youngest beginning with the greatest disadvantage.

According to the study, 50% of children from two-child families succeeded in getting five good O-levels, which compared with 40% for only children and 35% for the third child.

But the survey says that when only children mix with other children, such as at school, that this reduces the impact of any disadvantage.

The margins of sibling advantage and disadvantage can also be substantially altered by other factors, such as social background and parental involvement.

The study, written by Maria Iacovou, uses evidence of O-level results of 11,000 children born in 1958 whose academic careers were tracked through school in the 1960s and 1970s.

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How family size affects educational achievement
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See also:

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