Forget the flash cards and mental gymnastics. If you want your child to be the next Einstein the answer may lie in how long you wait until the next one.

A new study shows that leaving two years between children improves the older child’s school results. Academics at Notre Dame University in Indiana have found that children who were born at least two years before their younger brother or sister scored higher grades in maths and reading than those who were born closer together.

The benefit was strongest between the first and second born. However, the research also indicated that gaps of at least two years between subsequent children in larger families was also beneficial for the elder of the two.

Kasey Buckles, an assistant professor of economics at Notre Dame, lead the research. “**We believe this is the first time anyone has established a causal benefit to increasing the spacing between siblings,” she said.**

The study, published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Human Resources, analysed data from more than 3,000 women and 5,000 children. It included women who had miscarried after their first birth, so the length of the gaps between their children was not always intentional.

The researchers looked at birth order and spacing in relation to achievement scores in maths and reading when the children were between five and seven years old. The elder child’s results were best if there was a two-year gap – this advantage remained constant but did not improve if the gap was any longer.

The average child in the study could read 22 out of 84 words; elder children who were born two years before their younger brother or sister could read an average of four words more than their peers who had been born closer together. Researchers saw a similar trend in the children’s maths results.

The effect was still apparent between second and third, third and fourth, and fourth and fifth children – but the improvement in the scores was roughly half as pronounced.

Albert Einstein was himself born two years before his sister Maja. Other famous siblings where there is a two-year gap include the author Christopher Hitchens and his brother Peter, the journalist, and the actor and director Lord Attenborough and his younger brother Sir David.

The experts believe the difference in academic achievement is linked to the time and resources parents can invest in a child before a younger sibling arrives.

“The two-year gap is significant because the early years are the most important in a child’s development – so dividing your time when the child is one is more harmful than dividing it when the child is already in school,” said Buckles.

The study found that children where the gap is less than two years are read to less and watch more television between the ages of three and five than those who are spaced at least two years apart.

Rebecca Joyce, 31, from West Yorkshire, had her second child, Alice, 16 months after her first, Lucille.

The logistics of managing both when they were babies was really hard,” she said. “I soon realised that even small things like trying to help one to walk while you’re carrying the other one are really hard. My husband took extra paternity leave so Lucille had ‘daddy time’ to try to compensate.”

The difference in achievement scores was most pronounced in families who were less well-off. Buckles believes families with higher incomes can spend more, compensating for the lack of time they can spend with their first-born child.

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Source: The Australian –