The Effects of Birth Order

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The Effects of Birth Order
Many studies have been done in an attempt to determine what exactly makes people who they are. Personality has many different definitions. Furthermore, many factors shape the formations of one’s personality. These statements are fairly obvious. One factor in particular has been researched more closely than all other factors related to development. This factor is birth order. Birth order refers to the numerical place of a person in the order of births in his or her family.

Birth order has been relevant in many research studies. Each rank, the oldest, middle, youngest, and only, generally have similar characteristics that are common in different people of the same birth order. It is logical to conclude that these similar characteristics will effect other aspects of life, namely interpersonal relationships. If the birth order factor has a major influence on an individual’s personality, and different people of the same birth order have similar personality traits.

It was psychologist Alfred Adler who first recognized birth order as a significant factor in personality development. Adler believed that “even though children have the same parents and grow up in nearly the same family setting, they do not have identical social environments”. Adler also reported the characteristics that the various birth orders seem to share. The oldest child tends to be conservative, power-oriented, and predisposed towards leadership. The only child, according to Adler, tends to be dependent and self-centered. Adler is also quoted as saying, “The only child has difficulties with every independent activity and sooner or later they become useless in life”. Furthermore, the middle child is usually achievement-oriented, but may set unrealistic goals that will end in failure. Finally, the youngest tends to be highly motivated to outdo older siblings in various accomplishments.

Modern psychologist Patrick Leman’s research on birth order personality characteristics supports Adler’s findings in most respects. Leman reports that oldest borns tend to be conscientious, well organized, serious, goal-oriented achieving, believers in authority, reliable, perfectionists and self-reliant. He also states that these seemingly positive, motivated characteristics that help the oldest child to succeed academically and professionally are the same characteristics that damage close relationships they have with others. Leman (2000) disagrees in some respect with Adler when it comes to the characteristics and reputation of only children. Leman says that only children tend to be confident, perfectionist, organized, ambitious, logical and scholarly. Though only children can be self-centered, it is not to the extreme that the existing stereotypes indicate. Furthermore, only children take some of these traits, namely perfectionism, into their interpersonal relationships. This results in high expectations for anyone an only child comes in contact with. Middle children have a list of contradictory personality characteristics: loner/sociable, impatient/laid-back, aggressive/conflict-avoider. This suggests that middle children do not have a certain list of general characteristics like the other birth orders. Leman did say that middle children tend to be mediators and are choosy about who they confide in. Middle children also are one of the most monogamous birth orders, who are motivated to make their marriages and families work. Middle children also tend to have the less problems than first-born/only children. All of these qualities deal with their relationships with people. Youngest children tend to be charming, people-oriented, tenacious, affectionate and attention-seeking. They also tend to just “do” things – without thinking about the consequences of their actions. This is a trait that would come into play during relationships as well.

What Does Your Birth Order Say About You?Please select one option

1. Growing up, your siblings were:

 So much fun to be around Competitive Immature

2. In high school, you would have most likely been voted:

 Most popular Most likely to succeed Most rebellious

3. When you get sick, you:

 Secretly worry that I've finally contracted a fatal disease Take it as a cue to get some rest Hope that somebody will bring me chicken soup and gossip magazines ASAP

4. When you get angry with your partner, you find yourself:

 Needing to confront him and work through all of my concerns, sometimes with a temper Feeling hopeless or powerless Pouting until I get my way

6. Your sock drawer is:

 The Bermuda Triangle (or at least my washing machine is) Full of rolled up socks - some mismatched Color-coded and organized by function - casual vs. formal

7. Sometimes you wish the people in your life would:

 Get their acts together Lighten up Love me more

8. You are most likely to jump into action and take charge:

When turmoil hits, which seems like all the time If things are running smoothly and everyone is enjoying themselves I'm never really the one taking charge.

9. How would you describe your exes?

 A nice enough bunch Kind of controlling Probably unemployed

10. What did you do for a living right out of school?


I entered a full-time position that launched my current career. I went into sales. I did something creative and still managed to make ends meet.

Quiz: What's Your Birth Order Personality?

You're #1: Firstborn Personality Whether or not you were the first child born into your family, your personality indicates that yours is a firstborn personality. What does that mean? Well, even though you're a natural born leader, you tend to uphold the status quo. In other words, you can lead well, but you're not necessarily going to try to shake things up. If you are indeed a bonafide firstborn, you can attribute this tendency to the fact that, for at least a little while, you were the only child receiving attention from your parents. You didn't have to share the limelight with anyone else, and you developed a relationship with your parents that allowed you to be the center of attention (again, for at least a little while). Also, being the firstborn gave you some insight into your parents' personalities; therefore, you absorbed much of their belief system through some sort of familial osmosis action. After all, you didn't have any siblings there to buffer the relationship you shared with your parents. As other siblings came along, your parents depended on you to be a little helper and occasional babysitter. Whether or not you enjoyed these roles, they did and continue to help you be the capable, ambitious, hardworking person you are today.

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