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Children with an older brother have poorer language skills than those with a big sister
Girls tend to have more advanced language skills than boys, the researchers state.
The role of birth order in shaping who we are has been a matter of some debate in psychology.
Recent research has cast doubt on the idea that an individual's position in relation to their siblings influences their personality, for instance. But there may be other domains where birth order is still important: in particular, researchers have found that children with a greater number of older siblings seem to have worse verbal skills.
However, a new study published in Psychological Science has found that the situation is a bit more complicated than that. Young children with an older sibling do indeed perform worse on language measures, the authors find — but only if that sibling is a brother.
Parents only have a limited amount of time and attention they can split between their children, so the more siblings a child has, the less input they will personally receive from their parents. As parents play an important role in their child's language development, this could explain why those with a greater number of older siblings have worse language skills.
Naomi Havron at PSL Université and colleagues were interested in how this effect is influenced by the age and sex of an older sibling. There may be less of a negative impact if there is a bigger age gap between siblings, or if the older sibling is a girl, the researchers reasoned. A much older sibling will have better verbal skills, so could themselves become a useful source for younger children to learn about language. And girls tend to have more advanced language skills than boys, so a sister may also provide better input to their younger sibling.
To test these theories, Havron and colleagues looked at data from an ongoing French cohort study called EDEN, which has followed children, and their mothers, from before birth through to age 11. At ages 2, 3 and 5-6, the children's language skills were measured: at age 2 this simply involved mothers indicating which words their child could say, but at later ages children completed tests such as repeating words and sentences, naming pictures and listing animals. The team analysed the data from 1,276 children who had completed the language tests, including 547 who had an older brother or sister.
The researchers found that, on average, children who had an older sibling had worse language skills than those who didn't. But as they predicted, the sex of an older sibling was important: kids with older sisters had better language skills than those with older brothers. In fact, a subsequent analysis showed that children with an older sister didn't actually differ in their language skills from those with no older sibling. On the other hand, the age gap between the siblings didn't appear to make any difference to language ability after all.
It's not yet clear why children perform better when they have older sisters, the researchers write. It could be that sisters have better language abilities or are more nurturing than brothers — but another possible explanation is that sisters are less demanding on their parents, taking less parental attention away from their younger siblings than do brothers. Whatever the reason, the authors say, "it … might be more accurate to think of the well-established negative older-sibling effect as an older-brother effect."
But having an older brother isn't all bad. Other studies have found that children with older siblings are actually better at some of the social aspects of language, like joining in conversations. And it's also important to note that although statistically significant, the size of the effects in the study were rather small — and restricted to just a sample of French speakers. It remains to be seen whether similar results are seen in children in other cultures or who speak other languages.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.