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Torture figures and they’ll tell you anything.

When Essex University PhD student, Feifei Bu, recently disclosed the findings of her research study, we were led to believe that high achieving women tend to be the first born. Statistically these ‘first born women’ are more ambitious and well-qualified than their siblings

Do you believe that’s the case? As the second born of four I found the research more puzzling than informative.  My own experience really doesn’t reflect these findings in any way, shape or form. My parents lavished love and guidance on us all equally; no one seemed singled out for special treatment. Of course they wanted us to do well in life, have the advantages that they didn’t, so they instilled in us the importance of a good education. My eldest sister and I went to grammar school and received a fantastic, very classical education, my two younger sisters went to the local comprehensive and didn’t. They felt let down by the system, but that didn’t hold them back; quite the opposite. My kid sister, post-fashion and textiles degree, went on to design for the Conran Design Group, before setting up two very successful boutiques in London; she’s now a personal stylist. My other sister left school at 16, travelled the world, before working her way up in financial services and is now a board director of a specialist tax, trust and wealth management company in Gibraltar; she also speaks German and Spanish fluently. As for us two grammar school girls well, I write for a living, something I always dreamed of doing, so that might make me a high achiever, but I won’t be buying my Prada handbag or stepping into my Aston Martin any time soon. My eldest sister, who could read newspapers at four, hold whole rooms of adults spell-bound with her comic recitations and was an amazing sportswoman, fell in love at 18, got married and started a family, so never got her foot on the career ladder.

I’m not really sure if this research is truly “groundbreaking” as was reported in the media. Is “high achievement” the preserve of the first born? Marie Curie was the youngest of five children, Fred Astaire was the youngest of two, William Shakespeare was the third of eight, then there was Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth I. Still, you know what they say about statistics don’t you? Torture figures and they’ll tell you anything.

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