First-borns more likely to learn about sex from parents, new study

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

First-born children are more likely to learn about sex from their parents according to new research, which found that whether you're the eldest, youngest or the middle child has a big impact on how you learn about the birds and the bees.

"Although there has been much research into how the order in which children are born into a family may impact psychological or social outcomes, studies on the relationship between birth order and sexual health outcomes are limited," said lead author Dr Lotte Elton.

To examine this link, Dr Elton and her team looked at data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), the largest scientific studies of sexual health and lifestyles in the UK. They focused on a sample of 5,000 respondents, who answered questions about their early sexual experiences - and how they learnt about sex.

The findings, published in the journal Sex Educationrevealed that 48 per cent of first-born women and 37 per cent of first born men, talked about sex with a parent at age 14, compared to 40 per cent of middle-born women and 29 per cent of middle-born men. Results also demonstrated that men who were  middle children, and men who were the youngest in their families were more likely to report that they found it difficult talking to their parents about sex while growing up.

"In addition to seeing differences in sex education according to birth order, we also found clear differences between the sexes," explained Dr Elton.  "Across all birth order categories, men consistently reported lower parental involvement in sex education than women. Our findings suggest that the previously-reported difficulties men face in talking about sex with parents may be exacerbated if they are middle or last-born."

There was no link between birth order and early sexual experiences.

Despite limitations with the study sample, most notably that first-born and later-born children had different socio-demographic characteristics to middle-born kids, the authors believe their results have important implications.

"Older siblings appear to be an under-researched – and perhaps under-utilised – source of sex education for their younger siblings, and there is scope for greater consideration of their role in sex education and for increased inclusion of older siblings in sex education programs," the authors write.

But along with their parents and siblings, more recently teens have been turning to YouTubers, like 26-year-old Hannah Witton, for sex education. "I genuinely feel no awkwardness at all," Ms Witton, who has 400,000 followers, said in an interview with The Guardian. "It was one of the reasons I felt like it would be a good idea to start making videos like this, because I know some people don't feel comfortable talking about these things.

"If I have a platform and I'm OK talking about them, I can use that platform for good."