What Does Your Birth Order Say About Your Personality?

By Lisa Franchi on July 09, 2012

The order of birth is among the many things that we don’t have control of. Just like our gender, our date of birth, and our parents. And what is more surprising is that these things we sometimes called ‘innate’ are those that play a big role to our personality.

How is your personality affected by your birth order?

Some people say that the first-born children tend to grow more responsible and diligent, but are more likely to become anxious, overprotective, and demanding. The second born on the other hand, is more relaxed, jolly, and friendly than the first born. The third born is usually accused of being spoiled. Why is this so?

Some experts believe that our birth order has something to do with what we become later in life. It was Alfred Adler, a psychiatrist who lived during the 1900s who first proposed a theory on the effects of birth order on personality. According to him, first born children feel ‘dethroned’ when the next child is born. And sometimes, they find it hard to recover from that. From the moment we’re born, we are in a constant struggle for love, time, and attention from out parents, he said. Even history tells us that the birth order is an important factor that affects the outcome of our lives. For instance, in kingdoms, the firstborn son usually becomes the King’s successor.

In a study by a group of Norwegian researchers, it was revealed that firstborns are generally smarter than any siblings. And although there was a little difference in IQ, firstborns get to experience the highest educational attainment and diminish further down the birth order. Meanwhile, studies in the Philippines found that later-born children tend to be shorter and weigh less than the firstborns.

A famous writer and psychologist, Frank Sulloway proposed that birth order has a strong impact on one’s personality. He wrote that firstborns are more dominant, conscientious, and less open to ideas than later-born children. Another writer, Delroy Paulhus proposed that later-born children are the exact opposite of the firstborns, thus, they are more candid, rebellious, and agreeable.

Characteristics of Firstborns, Middle-Born, and Lastborn Children

Firstborns – the Bosses

Firstborns tend to get most of time and attention from their parents. Of course, couples become too excited as their first baby comes. Firstborns usually have the newest clothes, the best gifts and toys, the best room makeovers, etc. Their first month, first birthday, first words spoken – parents get to celebrate these things. Because of this, most firstborn children develop a more controlling behaviour. Firstborn males are more likely to become take-charge type of leaders. On the other hand, firstborn females tend to be bossy, aggressive, and confident.

Middles – the Peacemakers

Much has been written about the firstborns and the lastborns, but very little about the middle-born children. The personalities of people falling under this group depend on how many siblings are there in the family. The middleborns are like the type O blood in relationships, said Catherine Salmon, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Redlands in California. They go with anyone and are better at compromise. Some middleborn children tend to become secretive.

Lastborns – the Outgoing Babies

In most household settings, the lastborns are babied for a much longer period of time than their older siblings. Because of this, they grow to be less responsible. This is different however to those who were born after so many years, explained Dr Salmon. In such case, the lastborn may act like the only child or the eldest among the siblings.

Only Child – the Mature-Type

Children who have no siblings tend to become the centre of attention. According to Adler, only children are spoiled most of the time, and may have a hard time doing things on their own. Going to school for instance, can be a difficult transition. But they can grow mature faster, especially those who are always with adult people.

Basically, the role of birth order in the development of one’s personality is among the hardest things to explain. There are several factors why firstborns tend to grow this way and later-born children that way. These include the age gap between siblings, the social status, and demographics, environment, and way of living of each family. Furthermore, there are changes that each family meets as years go by that affect the development of children. It could be the recent divorce of their parents or a traumatic event, abuse, and so on. Parents have a big role to play in a child’s development. Continued guidance, love, and affection are what matter most.


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