'It's not a surprise. From an early age our first step, our first word and first time we roll over is met by rapture from our newbie parents'
Ican still remember the sobbing, the wringing of hands, the absolute pit of despair I fell into the day I failed my driving test. It wasn't so much that I had any great affection for driving or craved the freedom of the open road, it was more that for the first time I felt like a failure, my ambitions had been thwarted.
It was a typical first-born, female response.
According to new research, we first born females are hard-wired to aim for achievement. A study at the University of Essex last week revealed that if you are the eldest child and female you are statistically more likely to be the most ambitious and well qualified of all your family.
It is not the first time that first-borns have been revealed as driven. Last year a study by economists Joseph Hotz and Juan Pantano found that eldest siblings tend to perform better in school, have higher IQs and be viewed as the more accomplished by their parents.
In his book, The First Born Advantage, Dr Kevin Leman writes that "first-borns are the natural movers and shakers of the world. They're the leaders. They can accomplish just about anything."
To a certain extent, it makes sense that first-borns would be ambitious. From an early age our first step, our first word, the first time we roll over is met with rapture from our newbie parents – is it any wonder we become addicted to approval?
My own task-orientated fixation started with a chart that my parents compiled to keep me in my own bed at night. For every sleep, I would receive a gold star which ultimately transmuted into a toy computer. Hooked on the reward principle, good grades followed, then qualifications in musical instruments, a 2:1 degree, a Masters, and qualifications in journalism and teaching.
I elbowed my way into a saturated job market in journalism (something I'd been intent on from childhood) and I have no doubt that entering a career which leaves me open to feedback is yet another hark back to that quest for approval. I'm always looking for the toy computer.
Previous studies into the minds of first-borns have thrown up several hypotheses for what makes them succeed. After all, most world leaders, entrepreneurs and astronauts are eldest children.
According to Hotz and Panto it's because parents are more strict and put more time into their eldest child.
Feifei Bu, who led the most recent study at the University of Essex, agrees that parental investment is the most logical explanation.
But what seems less clear is why first-born girls would be more ambitious than first born boys. The study found that females were 13pc more ambitious than those who were eldest and male, with girls 4pc more likely to have further education qualifications.
First-born Laura Carter set up the First Born Girls Social Club (firstborngirls.com) in 2005. It now has 102 members across the United States who meet up twice a year to "discover, share and celebrate the unique contribution first born girls make to the world".
"I believe first borns are raised to believe they can do anything," she says. "But I think that leads to more confidence, I'm not sure 'ambitious' is the right word."
Counselling psychologist and psychotherapist Sally O'Reilly (sallyoreilly.com) believes it may have something to do with cultural cues picked up early on.
She explains: "It can happen that girls are expected to work harder because there is an assumption on their part and on the part of their parents (based on the reality of what is happening in the 'modern' workplace) that they will have to work harder and achieve more than their male counterparts to achieve the same recognition and/or salary.