The Oldest Child in the Family, Part 1/2
The Mature One, Being Adultlike
Good at Being in Authoritative Roles in the Work Place
Famous Oldest Children
Why Being the Oldest Child is Either the Most Glorious, Majestic, or the Most Put Upon, and Underappreciated of All Birth Orders
This hub is Part One in my analysis and commentary on the oldest child in the family. Psychologists, social scientists, and sociologists assert that being the oldest child in a family can either be the most majestic or the most put upon of all birth orders. The oldest child in a family is looked upon by parents and younger siblings to be the leader, surrogate parent, and an example setter. The oldest child is the only child for a while before the onset of another arrival in the family. Then the oldest child goes from being the center of the universe to being dethroned because there is a new baby in the family.
The oldest child reacts to being dethroned upon the arrival of a new sibling in many ways. Many oldest children become jealous of their newly arrived siblings because they are taking their parents' attention away from them. Some oldest children, upon the arrival of a new sibling in the family, revert to earlier childhood behaviors such as infantile talk and soiling themselves in an attempt to obtain attention from their parents. Still other oldest children sublimate their dethronement upon the arrival of the new sibling and vow to be "the best child" in order to gain their parents' admiration, respect, and love as well as the new sibling.
Because of the oldest child's ordinal birth order position within the family constellation, he/she is often designated as the responsible one. Teri Joseph, a character in SOUL FOOD, had a daily mantra asserting that she is the responsible one in the family and that her younger siblings do not have a clue.. Parents often have higher expectations of their oldest children than they do their younger children. Oldest children in families are on the average, disciplined more harshly and held to higher standards than their younger siblings. Parents are more exacting with their oldest children because they are new parents who are still experimenting and trying out new parenting methodologies. So the oldest child is the one to be experimented on; however, as younger siblings are born, parents learn to relax.
Oldest children in families are given responsibilities much earlier than their younger siblings. Because parents are stricter and more exacting with their oldest children, oldest children are usually more conservative, traditional, stalwart, and authoritative than their younger sibling or siblings. Oldest children are also less democratic and authoritarian in their attitudes than their younger sibling or siblings. Many oldest children develop into control freaks with the motto my way or the highway because they usually bossed their younger sibling or siblings around.
The status of the oldest child in the family constellation is dependent upon family size. In small (1-2 children per household)and medium sized families(3-4 children per household), the oldest child usually has a more glamorous status within the family. He/she has the positives of being the oldest child without the drudgery. Oldest children, especially girls, in small and medium sized families are often treated as the princess and/or little empresses in the family. They are like supervisors, advisers, and confidantes to their younger sibling or siblings.
However, in medium larg(5 children per household), large and very large families(6 or more children per household), the oldest child is often in loco parentis, raising his/her youngest siblings. The oldest child in large families have all the negative aspect of being the oldest without any of its privileges. Many oldest children in large families hate being the oldest because they are compelled to assume parental duties thus having no carefree childhood and adolescence. The average oldest child in large families are not allowed to have normal childhoods and adolescence as they are saddled down raising their younger siblings.
Many oldest children in large families start assuming adult responsibilities in early childhood. Oldest children in large families led very hard and stressful lives. Because of onerous familial responsibilities that they are assigned and compelled to perform, many oldest children in large families age beyond their years. These children do not know how to be children. In contrast, oldest children in small and medium sized families have normal and carefree childhoods in addition to individualized attention and affection from their parents.
Oldest children in large families often do not have contact with their parents but primarily with their younger siblings. Parents who have large families are usually not involved in raising their children, they delegate that responsibility to their oldest children. If parents in large families do spend time with their children, it is usually their youngest children. Parents in large families have a nonchalant and lackadaisical attitude towards their oldest children. It is called benign neglect.
Many oldest children, especially girls, in large families usually feel used and put upon by their parents. In large families, many parents view their oldest children as free help and a beast of burden, not as an individual with his/her separate identity. Oldest children in large families often develop an intense rivalry and jealousy of their younger, more indulged siblings which often last into adulthood.
Many oldest daughters in large families had so many responsibilities growing up that they wish to lead more carefree lives as adults. For example, I knew someone who was the oldest of ten children. She was married but seldom stayed at home. She constantly going to one place or another. She never performed any household or cooking chores but left that to her husband, who is an only child. He loved staying at home and wonders why she is always going out. Another woman, who is the oldest of thirteen children, does not want to get married and have children. She maintained that she has raised enough children to last two lifetimes. She added that she does not like children.
Many oldest children in small and medium sized families actually enjoy and relish being the oldest in their families. Although they hold responsible positions within their families, their parents do not inundate them with too much responsibilities thus allowing them to be children to enjoy their childhood and adolescence. Oldest children in small and medium sized families often receive love and affection from their parents. They are not left out by their parents in terms of love, affection, and attention.
In small to medium sized families, the oldest child is often on an equal paring with his/her younger sibling or siblings. In such families, parental affection is equally distributed among the siblings in terms of emotional, economical, and psychological resources. Because of the equal parental treatment of siblings in the small and medium sized family, the oldest sibling does not feel envy or rivalry towards his/her younger sibling or siblings. Familial responsibilities are equally divided by the parents among the siblings. I remember a mother of two children who severely admonished her youngest child when the child whined about doing a particular chore, telling her that she is too part of the family and was expected to do her fair share.
However, this is not the case in medium large to very large families . In medium large and especially in very large families, siblings are treated hierarchically. There is no equal paring of the oldest child with his/her siblings in such families. To reiterate, the oldest child in large families is seen as and treated as the family mascot while the youngest siblings are mollycoddled and not given any responsibilities even as they get older.
The majority of younger siblings in large to very large families have and live the life of Riley. I know of a person who was the youngest of ten who at twenty-one did not know how to cook and/or take care of herself because everything was done for her. Because of the parental treatment regarding siblings in the large family constellation, there is often intense rivalry and jealousy among the oldest, middle, and youngest siblings in the family. Many oldest children in large families express resentment and hatred of their younger siblings.
In school, the oldest child often becomes the overachiever because of high parental expectations. Oldest children, especially from small to medium sized families, often gravitate towards positions of authority and responsibility such as school monitor, class monitor, and student council president and leadership positions in extracurricular activities. Oldest children often are bossy and become the leaders of their peer group.
Sometimes oldest children because of their ordinal position in the family, cannot interface well with their peers because they refuse to learn the fine art of compromise. Conversely, many oldest children become bullies because they were used to being the boss among their siblings. Many oldest children continue to overachieve and excel throughout their academic careers which is later transferred to their actual professional careers.
Most executives and corporate leaders are the oldest children in their families. Furthermore, over 50% of our United States presidents have been oldest children. Statistics show that over 90% of our first astronauts were oldest children.
Oldest children do not often work well in subordinate positions as they dislike being told what to do. At work, many oldest children have contentious relationships with their superiors as they believe that they know more than their superiors do because of. their leadership roles in their families from a very young age. For example, my mother, who is the oldest of ten children, often had contentious relationships with her superiors at work because she believed that she knew more than they did and she demonstrated this at work, often getting in trouble with her superiors.
In summation, being the oldest child in the family constellation is a complex position for a person to have. Parents are still experimenting with the child because they are new parents. The oldest child is held to higher expectations and standards by parents than their younger siblings. He/she is usually given more responsibilities at an earlier than his/her younger siblings. Also the oldest child is punished more harshly for offenses that his/her younger sibling or siblings can get away with.
Because of the high parental expectations placed upon the oldest child, he/she is often the overachiever and gravitate towards authoritative and responsible positions within the academic arena and beyond. Parental expectations and the familial environment also influences the oldest child to be more authoritarian and less democratic than his/her younger sibling or siblings. Studies show that the majority of our American presidents and astronauts have been the oldest children in their families.
Oldest children are more likely to be in executive and/or leadership positions at work. They thrive on responsibility and love to tell others what to do,. Oldest children are extremely uncomfortable in subordinate positions as they do not take kindly to being told what to do. In the workplace, many oldest children feel that they know than their boss and/or supervisor and this makes for a very contentious relationship at work.
In small and medium sized families, being the oldest child is a very glamorous position. However, this is not so in large to very large families when being the oldest child is more of an onus and taxing responsibility. The oldest child in small and medium sized families although they assume advisory and authoritative roles with their younger siblings they, still retain semblance of their childhood roles.
Oldest children in large to very large families often have burdensome and taxing responsibilities which include being assigned by their parents to be caretakers and caregivers to their younger siblings. Parents in large families are usually uninvolved and/or unavailable and have little or no part in raising their children.
Oldest children are the leaders among their siblings which often translates into authoritative and executive acumen within the intellectual, social, academic, and professional arenas. Famous and celebrated oldest children include Susan Sarandon, George W. Bush, James Baldwin, Jane Fonda, Penelope Cruz, James Franco, John Stamos, Vanessa L. Williams, William Jefferson and Hillary Clinton, Mira Sorvino, Sylvester Stallone, Joan Collins, Clint Eastwood, and Bruce Willis.
Some Excellent Books on the Subject
- Oldest Child vs. Only Child- How These Two Alpha Bir...
Only and oldest children are both alpha birth orders. Only and oldest children have many things in common. Both birth orders want to be the first and are overachievers. Only and oldest children are organized, self-confident, and are perfectionistic..
- The Significance of Birth Order Among Adult Women
The issue of the birth order constellation is influential throughout a girl's childhood and adolescence. However, it does not stop there. Birth order influences continue throughout adulthood, often into old age. The primary familial relationship...
- How Birth Order is a Determinant to Children's Growt...
A child's place in the family constellation is one of the psychosocial determinants of his/her development as a human being. Birth order does authenticate the type of personality and outlook a child has. iA child's place in the family constellation..
- How Birth Order Affects Your Childs Characteristi...
There is a lot of debate among psychologists and child development experts about whether or not birth order has an impact on a childs personality and behavior. In other words, there are some people who...
The Oldest Child in the Family, Part I
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© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams
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