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[ST] Chains and Sprockets (Engineering question)

I have some questions for all you clever engineer types.
I know we have recently had a bit of a thread on changing the size of the sprockets to achieve various outcomes, however, I would like to know what the difference is with changing the size of the front versus the rear.
As I understand it, going down one tooth on the front OR going up two teeth on the back will have about the same effect. In this example it will shorten the gearing, by about the same ratio, giving slightly higher acceleration.  
My local dealer recently told me that the front sprocket wears the fastest and the smaller the sprocket, the faster the wear and once it starts to wear it then wears the chain which in turn wears the rear sprocket.
So my questions are:
1. An 18 tooth front & 46 tooth rear is about the same as 17/44, but the config with the bigger front will wear more slowly?
2. I normally get 20,000kms from my chains and sprockets. If I were to change the front sprocket more often, say every 3000kms, will this give extended life to the rear sprocket and chain? 
Does this make sense or is it all bunk???
'99 ST
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