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Parents stricter with older kids to set example: game theory study
Date:4/17/2008

Parents are more likely to punish their teen's risky behavior when there are younger kids in the family, driven by a desire to set a strict example for these siblings, says new game theory research from the University of Maryland, Duke University and The Johns Hopkins University.

The research team used economic game theory to predict levels of parental discipline. Parental concern for their reputation as a disciplinarian with the younger children would be a powerful motivator, they predicted.

Their study, published in the April edition of the Economic Journal, concludes that the exercise of parental control is effective in modifying the risky adolescent behavior.

This is especially true in the case of the older children, who expect stronger penalties because their parents are making an example of them.

But as the younger siblings grow up and the games get played out a second or third time, the parents resolve tends to dwindle, the researchers say.

Tender-hearted parents find it harder and harder to engage in tough love as they have fewer young children in the house, since they have less incentive to uphold reputations as disciplinarians, says University of Maryland economist, Ginger Gin, one of three co-authors of the study, and herself an older sister and a parent of two. As a result, the theory predicts that last-born and only children, knowing that they can get away with much more than their older brothers and sisters, are, on average, more likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Speaking from personal experience, Jin adds, We became stricter with our son after our daughter was born.

The study, Games Parents and Adolescents Play, is co-authored by V. Joseph Hotz, an economics professor at Duke; Lingxin Hao, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins; and Jin at Maryland.

My older sister always complains that she never got away with anything when she was growing up, and we all agree that my younges
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Contact: Neil Tickner
ntickner@umd.edu
301-405-4622
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert

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