The Oldest Child in the Family, Part 2/2

MICHAEL KEATON, the QUINTESSENTIAL oldest child-mature, overachiever, conscientious, and responsible.
MICHAEL KEATON, the QUINTESSENTIAL oldest child-mature, overachiever, conscientious, and responsible.

Example Setter and Standard Bearer for Younger Siblings

Oldest children are expected to be the standard bearer as a result of their ordinal birth position. After all, younger siblings look up to them for advice and how to act.Oldest children must ALWAYS be on their BEST behavior, no slip ups ever!
Oldest children are expected to be the standard bearer as a result of their ordinal birth position. After all, younger siblings look up to them for advice and how to act.Oldest children must ALWAYS be on their BEST behavior, no slip ups ever!

Parents are Stricter and More Stringent With Oldest Children

Parents are more strict and harsh with their oldest children than they will EVER be with their younger children. Oldest children are often held to a more arduous standard.They must be perfect or near so as younger siblings look up to them.
Parents are more strict and harsh with their oldest children than they will EVER be with their younger children. Oldest children are often held to a more arduous standard.They must be perfect or near so as younger siblings look up to them.

Oldest Child as Glamorous Adviser or Overburdend Second Parent

Oldest children in smaller families tend to have advisory and more positive leadership roles regarding their younger siblings.On the contrary, oldest children in larger families tend to be the parentified child, often raising their younger siblings.
Oldest children in smaller families tend to have advisory and more positive leadership roles regarding their younger siblings.On the contrary, oldest children in larger families tend to be the parentified child, often raising their younger siblings.

Oldest Children in Adulthood and Beyond

Oldest children are often viewed as THE RESPONSIBLE ONE and THE BULWARK by their younger siblings, even in adulthood.They are expected to THE SUPPORT SYSTEM for their families, although they have families of their own.
Oldest children are often viewed as THE RESPONSIBLE ONE and THE BULWARK by their younger siblings, even in adulthood.They are expected to THE SUPPORT SYSTEM for their families, although they have families of their own.

Being Held to a Harsher and Higher Standard in the Family

Oldest children are usually expected to be more responsible and levelheaded than their younger siblings. Furthermore, parents expect them to set the example of behavior for their younger siblings. Oftentimes, oldest children have the shortest and the least carefree childhoods of all.

Parents expect their oldest children to be the bulwarks of their family. As TERI JOSEPH, the oldest sister in the movie SOUL FOOD stated to her sister, MAXINE- I am the RESPONSIBLE one. Oldest children are often subjected to harsher standards and punishments than their younger siblings. Oftentimes, they are often punished and chastised for acts that their younger siblings commit. If they protest such differential treatment, the parental response is that because they are the oldest in their families, they should watch the younger ones and prevent such actions.

Many parents fail to realize that their oldest children are CHILDREN also. Oh no, oldest children in the family are EXPECTED to be adults long before their time. It is well known that the oldest child in the family often have the shortest childhood of all the birth orders. The average oldest child, no matter if the family is small, medium, and/or large, has the unwritten expectation to the the guardian of and leader to their younger siblings.

Oldest children are often unappreciated guardians by their parents. There is an unwritten parental expectation that they CARE for their younger siblings-no questions asked. Average oldest children often sublimate their own wishes and desires for the "benefit" of the family unit. One of my former coworkers, the oldest child of three, maintained that she missed the majority of her childhood because she had to constantly care for her two younger siblings.

As I have stated before, being the oldest child is one of the worst birth orders imaginable. As the oldest child in the family, one is expected to be on his/her best behavior and to be on 24/7. Many oldest children develop perfectionistic tendencies because of a constant demand to be on 24/7. Oldest children are oftentimes overly responsible and extremely serious thus having few childlike quantities.

Oldest children furthermore have the LEAST FREEDOM and the MOST RESPONSIBILITIES of all the birth order groups. They always have a younger sibling or siblings in tow . They have little or no time to be their individual selves, to be a child, have hobbies, and to freely explore their environment. Freedom is an extremely foreign concept to them; however, they are the most likely birth order to be always inundated with onerous responsibilities by parents and younger siblings.

There is no such thing as parental levity and indulgence of the oldest child. The oldest child in the family is often the least indulged by the parent. They are often treated the harshest and expected to buckle up, grin, and take it. Life for the oldest child in the family is definitely no bed of roses.

However, in small (1-2 children per household) and medium sized families(3-4 children per household), oldest children are often treated somewhat more indulgently and less harshly than their counterparts in medium large to very large families. Oldest children in small and medium sized families are somewhat on an equal paring with their younger siblings. In small and medium sized families, oldest children have a semblance of a carefree childhood although they are placed in familial leadership roles.

In medium large(5 children per household), large, and very large families(6 or more children per household), the oldest child is often the parentified child. This means that he/she fulfills the parenting role to his/her younger siblings. This is authenticated in two books, LOST CHILDHOODS-THE PLIGHT OF THE PARENTIFIED CHILD and BURDENED CHILDREN -THEORY, RESEARCH & TREATMENT OF PARENTIFICATION by Gregory J. Jurkovic, Ph.D. Dr. Jurkovic, a psychologist, maintained that oldest children in large to very large families are oftentimes forced to assume the role of the parentified child to his/her younger siblings thus forfeit their own childhood and adolescent development.

James Bossard, a sociologist who studies the large family and author of THE LARGE FAMILY SYSTEM, concurred with this analysis. Dr. Bossard asserted that oldest children in large families are often assigned to accept responsibilities for their younger siblings. He further stated that parentification of oldest children is a commonplace occurrence in large families (Bossard & Ball, 1956; Loman, 1961).

Oldest children in large to very large families have it the worst. Their status is often analogous to a slave in the antebellum American South or a forced laborer in a World War II German concentration or labor camp. They often have NO childhood to speak of as they MUST assume adult responsibilities very early in life, oftentimes in early childhood. This is because in large families, parents CANNOT EFFECTIVELY raise a large brood of children by themselves. So they enforce and compel their oldest children to assume the parenting and caretaking roles of their younger siblings. The childhood of an average child in a large to very large family is comparable to daylight hours of the winter solstice.

Oldest children in large to very large families are overburdened. Even though they are chronically children, they are not considered as such but are considered and treated as adults. Although oldest children are taught to put others' needs before their own, in large to very large families, this is more of a common occurrence.

As a result of putting others first, many oldest children develop a martyr complex. Such oldest children are often used and taken advantage because they do not know how to set boundaries. It is the lament of many an oldest child stating that they treated other people better than they have been treated. Oldest children are simply not taught to put THEMSELVES FIRST. They are indoctrinated that because they are the oldest, younger siblings need more care and other things. If the oldest child doth protest, they are severely admonished to grow up and stop being a baby.

Many oldest children often do not know how to voice their wants and desires because of this early familial conditioning. Of course, they have wants and desires but because they are afraid to voice them, they often "expect" other people to understand what they want. When others fail to understand and administer to their wants and needs, they believe that other people do not care about them, often becoming quite resentful in a passive/aggressive way. Many oldest children often complain about their childhood treatment to anyone who would listen. My advice: instead of complaining to strangers and passers by, start asserting yourself and speak up about this to your parents and possibly, your younger siblings. Talking to complete strangers, unless it is a psychotherapist, does not help the situation at all.

Being seen as the staunch one and the bulwark of the family does not end in adolescence. Oh no, it continues throughout adulthood and beyond. Oldest children are often seen as the parental and leader figure by their younger siblings, who as adults, should be making decisions on their own. Oldest children are expected to be the family shoulder for the younger siblings to lean on.

Oftentimes, oldest children are in caretaking positions for their younger siblings that they often neglect their present relationships with friends, associates, significant others, spouses, and children. They assume roles for their younger siblings which are often enabling and encouraging codependence e.g. an older sibling financially supporting a younger sibling who is WELL CAPABLE of finding a job and taking care of himself/herself. Many younger siblings take advantage of the oldest siblings because the latter is always willing to give at the stage when the younger sibling or siblings are perfectly capable of making their own way in life.

Oftentimes after the death of the parents, many oldest children are now viewed as the PARENTS by younger siblings. Even though the siblings are adults, it is the oldest child who often must act the adult while the younger siblings prefer to be in more childish and dependent roles well into their old age.This is much to the chagrin of the oldest children who proverbially has no breathing space. Always being on 24/7 until old age.

In conclusion, the oldest child is in the most difficult birth order. He/she is expected by parents to set an example for his/her youngest siblings in terms of behavior. He/she is often held to higher and harsher standards than his/her youngest siblings simply because of being older and "knowing better".

Oldest children often have the shortest childhoods of any birth order. This is especially true in medium large to very large families where the oldest child is parentified i.e. raising his/her younger siblings. Oldest children are taught to put others' needs before their own. As a result, it is extremely difficult for them to voice their own needs and desires less it be deemed selfish. Many oldest children because they were raised to not put themselves first are often taken advantage by people.

Oldest children assume the role as the responsible one puts an onus on them beyond adolescence. They often are the bulwarks and the most responsible and conscientious siblings even in adulthood when all siblings should take equal familial roles. Oldest children often must assume responsibilities above and beyond that of other birth orders.



Movies to Watch Regarding This Subject

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams

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Comments 10 comments

MsHoneyGraham profile image

MsHoneyGraham 5 years ago from Borington,North Carolina-I mean Warrenton, North Carolina

As the oldest child in my family, I was allowed to be a kid and enjoyed being a kid. There were times when I wanted to help Mom because I was fascinated at being mother's helper with the younger ones. Again, some of these theories you have should not lump everyone in the same category.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

To MsHoneyGraham: Thank you for your comments. They are greatly appreciated. You indicated that you had a childhood. I hate to be assumptive but you were probably the oldest child from a small to medium sized families. Oftentimes, oldest children in such families have an equal paring with their younger sibling or siblings. Even they were put into leadership and responsible roles, they were not expected to be the family's unpaid servant and au pair.

However, oldest children in medium large to very large families are the parentified child. They have no childhood to speak of because they are at the beck and call of their parents and siblings 24/7. These oldest children have no childhood to speak of. They are forced to raise their younger siblings and assume other parenting duties which results in forfeit their childhoods and adolescence.


LADYGIRL profile image

LADYGIRL 5 years ago

Yes, you are so right. I'm the oldest and I had to do everything for my youngest brother. Take him to school in the morning and pick him up after school. Now mind you I was a school age child. I had to come home and cook and do my homework. However there come a point in your life when you have to say, NO MORE!! And move on with your own life. My youngest brother and I are best friends. I taught him don't depend on me, you have to do that for yourself. Very good Hub, Excellent


jyc999 3 years ago

soooooo not cool man


mare64 2 years ago

I have four younger siblings and am a female. I actually was a very spoiled oldest child. I had all the privileges of being the oldest and no responsibilities. I vuess I lucked out. Thank goodness for my parents.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

You indeed were VERY BLESSED. Yes, thank goodness for your wonderful parents. Many oldest children, particularly from medium large, large, and very large families have NONE of the privileges but the RESPONSIBILITIES of being the oldest.


mare64 2 years ago

Thank your for your response gmwilliams. The topic is fascinating but sad. I have always said that the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was a fantastic childhood. I do hope that there are more oldest children out there like myself who were allowed to have a childhood. I was just a very loved child as were my younger siblings. But I do know that I had my dad's heart as well as my mom's. After reading this, I just wish there were more parents like my parents out there. Parents don't realize that they can make or break their children.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York Author

What YOU have stated is so true. Many oldest children are adults so early in life; there is no such thing as a normative childhood for many oldest children in medium large, large, and very large families. They are the ONES who PARENT younger siblings; their "parents" do not do the parenting. It is so SAD really. What you have experienced is typical of oldest children in 2-4 child families; they are THE ONES who have normal childhoods and who are LOVED by their parents.


JamespRichmond profile image

JamespRichmond 19 months ago from Kent, Washington

I enjoyed your Part 2 of the older child, however I found it distracting having the all caps on intermixed in your article. This could've been a minor error but from a readers perspective it doesn't seem very professional. Again spacing your text into sub headers/hubs would work wonders. Not only will your reader not get neck cramps (which I got) this will also allow them to digest what your saying in separate sittings, rather then shoving the information down their throat in one big meal.

- James


Leanne Sreong 12 months ago

I'm the oldest child in my immediate family. My parents only had 2 children, so I'm technically the older child. My brother is almost 2 years younger than me. I also have Asperger Syndrome. Even when I was a teenager, I felt like it wasn't fair that my parents didn't make as big of a fuss about my brother's behavior as they did about mine when I was his age. That was because it wasn't exactly the same as what I would have gotten when I was his age. Not because I thought my brother needed or deserved stricter discipline than what he was getting. He doesn't have any disabilities, and I do.

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