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I've heard more than once that children born in the beginning of the year, like January, have an advantage over children born late in the year, like December, because (at least in North America) they're older than the rest of the kids in their class. Boys do better in athletics if they're bigger, etc.

I know there would be lots of anecdotes both proving and disproving this, so let's not have any of those. Instead, I'm interested to know if there are any real studies supporting this.

asked 27 Apr '10, 10:02

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I've heard something similar, but instead of where in the calender year a birth falls, it hinges on where in the school year it falls.

Though from personal experience, I don't think it makes much difference academically, just in physical terms.

(27 Apr '10, 14:41) mkcoehoorn

Ya i do agree with scott's question i have read this in an article taken from health.usnews....

An Australian researcher analyzed the birthdays of Australian Football League (AFL) players and found that many were born in the early months of the year, while far fewer were born in the later months.

The Australian school year begins in January, noted Dr. Adrian Barnett, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology.

"Children who are taller have an obvious advantage when playing [Australian rules football]. If you were born in January, you have almost 12 months' growth ahead of your classmates born late in the year, so whether you were born on December 31st or January 1st could have a huge effect on your life," Barnett said in a news release.

In his study, Barnett found that 33 percent more AFL players than expected had birthdays in January and 25 percent fewer than expected had birthdays in December. The findings are similar to other studies that concluded there was an association between being born near the start of the school year and a better chance of becoming a pro ice hockey, football, volleyball or basketball player.

"Research in the UK shows those born at the start of the school year also do better academically and have more confidence," Barnett said. "And with physical activity being so important, it could also mean smaller children get disheartened and play less sport. If smaller children are missing out on sporting activity then this has potentially serious consequences for their health in adulthood."

His findings also suggest that children with the potential to excel in sports may not be identified because they have to compete with much more physically advanced peers.

The research appears in a new book called Analyzing Seasonal Health Data.

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answered 27 Apr '10, 10:19

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edited 27 Apr '10, 16:11

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+1 Interesting book!

(27 Apr '10, 10:30) Emi

@Emi i forget to include the link for the book... Thanks emi...

(27 Apr '10, 10:31) Pandiya Chendur

@Pandiya My pleasure, thanks for sharing!

(27 Apr '10, 12:48) Emi

That is really interesting!

(27 Apr '10, 16:38) Preets
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I believe Malcolm Gladwell also touches on this in Outliers (http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0316017922?ie=UTF8&tag=gladwelldotco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=0316017922)

(27 Apr '10, 23:52) Kate

Kate is right. Check out Outliers by Malcom Gladwell for more on this.

(28 Apr '10, 10:50) Phil
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

This is discussed in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers. In the first chapter, he looked at NHL players and the months in which they were born. There are clear delineations based on the month youth hockey leagues divide kids into age groups, usually January. Those with a few more months of maturity tend to be slightly bigger than their peers, which leads them to be selected for all-star and showcase teams, which gives them extra practice with the best coaches. This extra practice, by the time they turn, say, 16, adds up to a lot relative to their peers who don't get selected because they're half a year younger. When the NHL draft comes along, there are more players whose birthdays are in January, February, and March that wind up making it than any other month. From the blog, From the Rink:

NHLers by birth month

This graph shows NHL players' birth months for all players from 1980 to 1990. Clearly, being born at the end of the year seems like a disadvantage for those wanting a career in pro hockey. Gladwell imagines what might happen if youth hockey split kids into 6-month groupings instead of 12.

The central point of his book is that success in life is not (purely) a result of hard work, drive, dedication, and all the other words we typically use to describe the successful. He claims it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, so you've got to put the work in. But certain people have advantages over others, wind up in the right place at the right time, and get better opportunities to get those 10,000 hours in faster than others.

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answered 06 May '10, 14:07

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It's a good point, but not information I would want to expose to my kids. I'd like them to feel that they have control over the outcomes of things, mostly by the amount of effort they put in. If they think things are already pre-ordained by some factor outside of their control, does that become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

(06 May '10, 16:22) Scott ♦♦
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@Scott, a valid concern. What I take from this lesson is that I ought to be humble in my accomplishments and acknowledge the places where I received a boost up from the cards I was dealt. In the grand scheme of things, since I'm wealthy enough to be frequenting this website and spending my free time discussing these issues, I've already won the birth lottery, regardless of my birth month, which just so happens to be December. Now it's up to me to make the most of the hand I've been dealt. I hope to teach those ideas to my kids.

(06 May '10, 16:59) Scottie T

A lot of my friends and I try to plan pregnancy so that their kids can start school earlier rather than later. The reason is so they can get done with school sooner (we're not very concerned about our kids being behind academically as most of us did much better than average in school).

This opposite idea of starting later for, I guess, a confidence advantage is very, very interesting.

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answered 06 May '10, 01:09

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edited 06 May '10, 03:05

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Hi, please feel free to post comments about the site on meta: http://meta.moms4mom.com/ We're trying to keep this site focused on the topic of parenting. Thanks!

(06 May '10, 03:06) Scott ♦♦

Old thread but never the less......there is significant evidence and research to indicate that children born in the first few months of the year will do far better academically than children born in the last few months of the year.. when all other factors are controlled for, the advanatge lasts right through the college years and the gap widens with each year. In addition, boys born in December are the most disadvantaged of all groups.

So, if you want your child to have the most advantage in life, planning a pregnancy to finish school early will have the opposite effect. Particularly for the boys.

The body of research is fairly substantial - much more than can be posted here. It also goes back more than 30 years. My familiarity with the subject comes from my experience as a sociologist. If you do a quick Google search, you will find many references to support these findings. I have detailed the "pioneers" in this area of research below. I think it is interesting to read the OLD research first - we have known that children who start school later do better for more than 40 years now - and yet we keep pushing them to start sooner.

The Early Researchers

Beattie, C. 1970 - Entrance age to Kindergarten and first grade : Its effect on cognitive and affective development on students.

Maddux, C.D 1980 - First-grade entry age in a sample of children labeled learning disabled

Kalk, Lange and Searle 1982 - A closer look at school cutoff dates and achievement.

Diamond, G.H. 1983 - The birthdate effect - a maturational effect ?

Russell and Startup 1986 - Month of Birth and Academic Achievement

Another Influential Paper from the 90's

The Journal of Educational Research © 1991 Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Abstract Academic achievement indices taken at fifth or sixth grade for summer birth date children who entered kindergarten at age 5 were compared with the academic achievement indices of summer birth date children who entered kindergarten at age 6. Scores on standardized achievement tests were analyzed for 45 pairs of subjects who were matched for ability and gender. All statistically significant differences favored those summer birth date children who entered kindergarten at age 6. Dependent t tests indicated a statistically significant difference (p < .05) in composite test battery scores favoring both older males and older females. Older males scored significantly higher than younger males did in total reading subscores (p < .01). Results of the study indicated a general academic advantage at fifth or sixth grade for summer birth date children who postponed kindergarten entrance 1 year. A particular advantage in reading at fifth or sixth grade was indicated for summer birth date males who postponed kindergarten entrance 1 year.

Most Current Research

I would look at reading Malcolm Gladwell - his work best describes the ways in which the academic gap widens over time. Basically, his research found that older students who excel in the early years (due to the age advantage) gain so much confidence, that they strive for excellence, whereas the younger students develop esteem issues that impede their ability seek out achievement.

Hope this is helpful - I have a drawer full of about 500 research papers in to this subject so will leave it at that.

CK

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answered 08 Jul '11, 17:42

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edited 08 Jul '11, 20:01

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Thank you Christine, that's great!

(08 Jul '11, 19:59) Tammy ♦♦

My mother was born in December. But, she has no any abnormalities. Also, her first cousin has also birthday in December. And he was the last man to be born in 1965.

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answered 15 Oct '10, 06:12

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I don't think anyone is suggesting that there is an increase in childhood disorders or physical ailments for babies born late in the year. What is being suggested is that those children that start school or other extra-curricular activities (particularly sports) almost a full year behind their peers may be at a disadvantage.

(15 Oct '10, 20:08) Tammy ♦♦
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Asked: 27 Apr '10, 10:02

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Last updated: 08 Jul '11, 20:01