The baby of a family gets no respect.
Of all the siblings, they're usually the ones singled out as troublemakers, irresponsible, attention-hungry, get-away-with-anything brats. On top of all that, for most of their childhoods, the baby is the easy, gullible targets for older siblings' pranks.
But research on birth order has found that youngest children really aren't all that bad. In fact, to the disbelief of eldest siblings everywhere, the characteristics that made last-borns the butt of family jokes actually do the opposite in adult life: They help youngest sibs live up to their fullest potential. And, as science shows, they are way more fun to be around. With big personalities and a penchant for entertainment, last-borns are the family's grand finale.
Below, 5 research-backed reasons that the babies of the bunch are actually the family's crown jewel.
1. They're more adventurous.
Unlike firstborns, who by default assume the leadership role in the sibling bunch, the youngest have to search for their own “unoccupied family niche,” according to Frank Sulloway, a birth order researcher and author of Born to Rebel.
To find their place, last-borns are more likely to experiment and take more risks in order to assert their own talents and identities. “For this reason,” Sulloway writes in his research, “they are often more exploratory and open to experience.”
2. They're probably hilarious.
What do Eddie Murphy, Stephen Colbert, Jennifer Lawrence and Tina Fey all have in common? They're hilarious, and they're all the youngest in their families. Data suggests that might not be a coincidence.
A 2015 YouGov survey found that youngest siblings are more likely to consider themselves funny while eldest siblings are more likely to see themselves as serious. But that ability to make people laugh may have developed out of need. Babies of the family have to compete for their parent's attention, psychologist Richard Wiseman has told BBC, so they're likely to turn to humor to win them over.
3. They're more relaxed.
According to the YouGov birth order survey, youngest siblings are also more likely to see themselves as relaxed. This usually stems from having parents with a more relaxed parenting style, thanks to their experience raising their older children.
By the time the youngest kid enters the picture, “parents are more lenient,” Kevin Leman, a psychologist and author of The Birth Order Book, told CNN. “Youngest kids tend to be less rules-oriented, yet still get lots of attention.”
4. They are great at making friends.
While firstborns are more assertive, youngests are usually more social and fun-loving, according to Sulloway's studies. Because they had to find their place among their siblings, babies of the family eventually learn how to control situations and manipulate people, according to Leman.
“Youngest children are manipulative, social, outgoing, great at sales,” Leman has told HuffPost. “They got away with murder as kids and know how to get around people.”
But that doesn't mean they're psychopaths, as older siblings who were always blamed for the baby's misdeeds might think. One study noted that there is no apparent link between being the youngest in the family and behaving badly.
5. They're more creative.
While older siblings have, on average, a slightly higher IQ, younger siblings tend to have the creative edge. According to Sulloway, last-borns have to find their place in the family while avoiding the same route their older siblings took.
Youngest siblings “are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment, and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Sulloway told the New York Times in 2007. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the IQ tests do not measure.”
This may have an impact on what careers they eventually gravitate toward. A 2011 Career Builder survey found that the youngest in the family is often attracted to creative jobs, such as design, architecture, writing or art.
While psychologists disagree whether birth order truly affects an individual's personality, there is no doubt that your interactions and relationships with your siblings influence who you eventually become.
And if you are the youngest in the family with lots to prove, at least you now have five very convincing reasons you are undoubtedly the house favorite.