The Significance of Birth Order Among Women

THE OLDEST CHILD

Hillary Clinton and Susan Sarandon exemplify the fierce ambition, nononsense attitude, and leadership abilities of oldest children.  Oldest children are highly confident, authoritative, and love to take charge.
Hillary Clinton and Susan Sarandon exemplify the fierce ambition, nononsense attitude, and leadership abilities of oldest children. Oldest children are highly confident, authoritative, and love to take charge.

THE MIDDLE CHILD

The late Princess Diana and Madonna exemplify the "everyperson"  and mass appeal typical of middle children.  Middle children are often people persons. They are the most democratic of all birth order. They know how to interface well with others.
The late Princess Diana and Madonna exemplify the "everyperson" and mass appeal typical of middle children. Middle children are often people persons. They are the most democratic of all birth order. They know how to interface well with others.

THE YOUNGEST CHILD

America Ferrera and Janet Jackson exemplify the scene and spotlight stealing youngest child.   Youngest children oftentimes have to prove that themselves in order to be taken seriously by people.
America Ferrera and Janet Jackson exemplify the scene and spotlight stealing youngest child. Youngest children oftentimes have to prove that themselves in order to be taken seriously by people.

THE ONLY CHILD

Lauren Bacall and Charlize Theron demonstrates the fierce independence and individualism of only children.   Only children are highly ambitious and extreme perfectionists.
Lauren Bacall and Charlize Theron demonstrates the fierce independence and individualism of only children. Only children are highly ambitious and extreme perfectionists.

The Role of Birth Order in the Lives of 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 that daughters have with their parents and/or siblings often influences, either positively and/or negatively, the women they metamorph into.

The issue of birth order resonates with women regardless of where in the family constellation she is born into. Whether she is: (1) the ambitious, power hungry princess firstborn, (2) the guardian, law and order firstborn, or (3) the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn. If she is a middle child:(1) the insecure, forgotten, and nameless middle child, (2) the compliant, people-pleasing middle child, or (3) the firebrand, justice seeking middle child. If she is the youngest child; (1) the whiny, pampered, spoiled, selfish and immature youngest or (2) the rebellious, unconventional, try new ground youngest. Last but not least, if she is the only child or singleton( I prefer the word singleton): (1) superambitious and perfectionistic only, (2) independent, solitary only, or (3) prima donna only. It is clear that a woman's psychotypology is determined by her birth order which is influential in her psychosocial development with the family constellation and beyond.

The firstborn female. The familial role of the firstborn daughter within the family is a complex one. She is either assumes the role of the princess, guardian or the caregiver. In small families, she is often the princess whereas in the large family, she is the surrogate parent and caregiver. Many times in the caregiving role, she becomes self-abnegating, placing her siblings' needs first and her needs last. This behavior often results in the caregiving firstborn female, especially in the large family, to become a martyr who can be easily taken advantage of by siblings and parents alike.

The guardian, law and order firstborn, could be born either into a small, medium-sized, or large family. The guardian, law and order firstborn, is often thrust into the caregiving role but she is more respected within the family constellation than the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn who is often unappreciated. The guardian, law and order firstborn often views her caregiving and second parenting role as a challenge, not as an onus as with the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn. The guardian, law and order firstborn is assertive and knows her boundaries and is not hesitant to clarify this to family members and associates.

The ambitious, power hungry princess firstborn is oftentimes from a small family is the apple of her parents' eyes. She gets the positives and bonuses of being the firstborn without any of the negatives. This firstborn daughter is often encouraged to succeed and to break feminine role stereotypes in terms of academia and future career aspirations. This daughter is often told that she can be a doctor, executive, and/or astronaut if she wished. She is often pushed to succeed and come in first.

For example, in the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn category, there was a co-worker at my first job,, who was the oldest of eight children. She was in the caregiver role and developed a martyr complex. She was one of the worst employees ever. She performed her tasks slowly as not to be given any more responsibilities. Although she was not content being in a subordinate role, she did not want more complex job responsibilities as this would remind her of her childhood second parent/caregiving role.

Another instance is a firstborn female who was the oldest of six children. Although she was a highly competent nurse obtaining two Masters of Science Degrees in Biology and Chemistry in addition to an advanced degree in Nursing, she repeatedly declined head nurse and supervisory roles as she did not want the added caregiving, take charge responsibilities. She, too, as a firstborn, was not happy being in a subordinate role and often had run-ins with her supervisor who she deemed knew less than she did in addition to being less educated.

Two well-known actresses, both firstborn daughters in very large families, exemplify the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn. One of the actresses often reported that she had to assume the role of surrogate mother to her nine younger siblings whereas the second actress reported being a second mother to her eight younger siblings. As a result of their upbringing, both actresses are content just working as actresses, shunning more responsible roles behind the camera. The first of the aforementioned actresses also elect to remain childless for the same reason.

Another example of the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn came from a well known musical family. She is the oldest of nine children. Although she was quite talented, she was overlooked by her family and was placed on the backburner so to speak. She has all but disappeared from the entertainment business.

To reiterate, the guardian, law and order firstborn relishes being placed into roles of responsibility. In elementary and junior high school, she is often assigned duties as the class monitor. Like the ambitious, power hungry, princess firstborn, she loves being authoritative with people and like the caregiving/martyr firstborn, she enjoys the role of caretaker. There was a PTA president from my childhood, who was the firstborn of four children, who perfectly exemplify the guardian, law and order firstborn. An internationally known and respected media mogul exemplifies the guardian, law and order firstborn for she enjoys being in charge and being a caregiver simultaneously.

On the other hand, the ambitious, power hungry princess firstborn relishes being in charge and the boss. A friend of mine, who was the firstborn of three siblings, loved to be in-charge much to the chagrin of her younger siblings. In her elementary school, she was the classic overachiever, being the smartest person in in her class. In high school, she was the valedictorian. In college and graduate school, she graduated cum laude in economics and mathematics. In addition to her stellar academic performance, she was the class president in her high school for three years straight. She is currently a CEO of an investment firm in Chicago.

A well respected entertainer,who is the firstborn of two children, exemplifies the ambitious power hungry princess firstborn. Born into a middle class enclave in Westchester, New York, she had the princess status thrusted upon her from birth. Her birth announcement indicated her princess status. Her parents expected her and encouraged her to achieve and that anything was possible. This entertainer used her firstborn skills to be a good student throughout her elementary, high school, and part of her college career. In addition to that, she was also the 8th grade class president. While in high school, this entertainer also earned awards in drama and theatre. Today, this entertainer is all around talent who is quite an accomplished actress, producer, songwriter, and singer. She further stated that she intends to achieve much more in her stellar career. One of her characters in a cancelled television series is the exact prototype of the ambitious, power hungry princess firstborn!

Often in careers, the caregiving, put upon, martyr firstborn is the employee who is often given a lot of work without the credit. She is often the drone who takes on extra assignments because she believes "it would make her look good", " it is her duty," and "place her above the rest of the employees". Although she is a stellar, above average employee, bosses and supervisors often overlook her and do not consider her promotion material. As a result, she is underappreciated and assume a passive aggressive relationship with her superior and co-workers alike.

In relationships, the caregiving/martyr firstborn is often taken advantage of by her parents, siblings, husband, and children as she placed their interests and needs above her own. There is a relative who is the oldest of ten children, who until this day supports some of her grown siblings, much to the detriment of her husband and daughter. When her husband confronts her on this, she asserts that they do not have the socioeconomic achievements that she has and she wants them to live better. Most of her high six figured salary goes to supporting her five siblings who earn minimum wage and do not wish either to further educate themselves or advance their socioeconomic standing. Her husband, earns a seven figure salary which goes towards him and the daughter, who both resent her for placing her family of origin first. Although this relative fully support her five siblings, they do not appreciate it and feels what she does is not enough! Because of an inability to say no, to be self-abnegating, and failure to set boundaries, the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn daughter is subject to being physically, emotionally,and /or verbally abused by family members. This firstborn is afraid to put her needs first as she deems this to be selfish.

The guardian, law and order firstborn is a cross being authoritative and caregiving. She relishes both roles and is not afraid to set boundaries within the relationship. She is respected by family and friends. The guardian, law and order firstborn is not afraid to consider her needs. It is the mantra of the guardian, law and order firstborn that her needs are as important as her family's and friend's needs.

The ambitious, power hungry princess firstborn takes no quarter and demands the ultimate respect. She is not hesitant in being vocal about her needs which are primary. Out of the firstborn psychotypes, she receives the most respect from her family, friends, and associates because she DEMANDS it! A celebrity who exemplifies the ambitious, power hungry princess psychotype, divorced twice because she was not going to take any disrespect from her philandering husbands and was not the worse for it.

The middle born female: Being a middle child can be such a dilemma. The middle child is the second maligned of birth orders. The middle child is the least individualized child in the birth order constellation. She is the younger sister of "x" or the older sister of "p", she is not known for being an individual. It is very difficult and onerous for a middle child to be recognized as an individual in her own right. Oftentimes, in families, the middle child is often ignored by her siblings and parents.

The insecure, forgotten, and nameless middleborn female is often ignored and overlooked by parents and siblings. This middle child, often enough, are born into medium-large, large to very large sized families where is few, if any parental attention, to go around. In families with five or more children, parents do not have the emotional resources to pay individualized attention to each child. In very large families, the middle child is sadly ignored.

The compliant, people pleaser middle born female is often born into a medium-sized family from three to five children. Although this size family is not small, it would not be classified as large neither. There is enough spatial planning between being the oldest and the youngest so parents have enough resources to devote some individualized attention to their middle child. Many the middle child study the characteristics of the oldest and youngest child and decide to the peacemaker and diplomat in the family as not to ruffle any feathers. The middle child decides to take the middle road of compliant, people pleaser to keep family members happy and in love with her.

The firebrand, justice seeking middle born female can either be born into a medium-sized and/or large sized family. The firebrand, justice seeking middle child does not intend to be ignored and is very vocal in expressing her needs. Especially in medium large to very large families, this middle child is not going to be lost in the shuffle and will have the loudest mouth and will be the most attention seeking.

I knew a middle born female, who was the fifth out of ten children. She was the prototype of the insecure, forgotten, nameless middle child. She coulld be described as nondescript. She was totally unassertive and preferred to remain in the background. She maintained that she never received adequate attention from her parents nor siblings who derided and ignored her. She was an average student throughout her academic career. As far as I know, she works as an administrative clerk in a civil service capacity.

While I was employed at a social agency, there was a co-worker who could be described as a compliant, people pleaser. She was the middle of three children. This co-worker was very active politically; however, she did not have a will of her own but believed in being obsequious to anyone in authority. Other workers called her a "sycophant" behind her back. This co-worker believed in playing the game to get whatever she wanted. This co-workers believed in buttering up superiors, inviting them to her house in order for them to like her. The compliant, people pleaser middle born child is usually known as the everyman, the popular one, and the jack of all trades because they subvert themselves because they yearn to be liked at all costs. The concept of teamwork suits middle children fine for they are quite comfortable working within a team to accomplish a common goal.

There is one international known singer and producer who is known for being a firebrand, justice seeking middle born. She was born the third of eight children. During her childhood, she decided to.excel and to grab attention in order not to be overlooked by her parents and siblings. She excelled alright-she earned straight As, became a cheerleader which was excellent training for her future career as a singer and actress. In addition to her singing career, she is quite vocal on issues such as AIDS awareness and other sexually related issues. Plenty of firebrand middle borns make very competitive and intense union leaders, attorneys, and mediators because they believe in justice and are for the underdog and oppressed.

In relationships, the insecure, forgotten, nameless middle born daughter, like the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn sister, usually is a doormat placing her needs last and other people's needs first. This psychetype of the middle child believes herself to be quite insignificant. This psychetype of the middle child, because she was lost in the shuffle among her siblings, believes that she does not deserve any respect whatever, leaving her to be verbally, emotionally, and even physically abused. Like the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn, this prototype of female is often the type to be, neglected, and abused. The insecure, forgotten, and nameless middle born, like her relative, the ,caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn, have the least self-respect and self-esteem thus leaving family members, friends, and associates to abuse and deride them. These prototypes of women are the least assertive.

The compliant, people pleasing middle born female prototype believes in being the life of the party. These women would do almost anything to make people happy and to like them. Their mantra is that if others are happy, then I am happy. The compliant co-worker that I mentioned, believes in having a lot of people to surround her. She loves having "lots" of friends as this makes her feel wanted and important. She believes that if she pleases these people, they will be happy and respect her more.

The firebrand, justice seeking middle born female prototype believes in going all out to seek equal rights and correct wrongs for the underdog. The prototype of middle borns do not believe in taking any quarter. It is all or nothing for them. They will fight to the death for what they believe in. They strongly believe in making a difference in this world and will do anything to achieve this goal. This is the type of middle born who would not tolerate any disrespect from their family members, friends, and associates.

The youngest born female: the youngest child can be described as being one of the luckiest birth order constellations in the world. If she is born into a small or medium-sized family, she is more or less on equal footing with the older siblings of the family. However, she is born into a medium large, large, and/or very large family, she is often prized, babied, pampered, and spoiled. In large to very large families, the youngest is often allowed no responsibilities and is allowed to remain a child longer than her older siblings. In large to very large families, the youngest child often does not have close contact with the parent but with older siblings who are often the caregivers and caretakers.

The whiny, pampered, spoiled, selfish, and immature youngest born female prototype is the type of daughter who remains helpless and dependent long after adulthood. This prototype can be found equally in small, medium-sized, and large families. She believes that people exist to wait on her hand and foot. She is often a master manipulator who knows how to use others to get what she wants and she is often adept at using emotional blackmail. She used it on her older siblings often enough.

Then there is the rebellious, unconventional, try new ground youngest born female prototype. This prototype is also found equally among small, medium-sized, and large families. This daughter seeing either old and/or negative patterns within the family constellation, decide this pattern, environment, and/or lifestyle is not for them and want to do something different from their family. My first cousin once removed fits this prototype, out of ten siblings, who all had high school educations and less, she went to college and graduate school and has a Master's Degree in Psychology. Another person who fits this prototype was a Jewish holocaust victim who is widely revered throughout the world today. She was the youngest of two children of an upper middle class Jewish family. Although her parents were businesspeople, she wanted to break that pattern either to became an actress or a writer. Sadly, she never realized those dreams, dying shortly before her sixteenth birthday.

At work, the whiny, pampered, spoiled, selfish, and immature youngest born female prototype is the type to most avoid at work. This slacker does not believe in performing an honest day's work thus leaving the bulk of work for others to perform. This employee also is the worst candidate for teamwork. Teamwork is an anathema to this prototype for she will do the least work, expecting the most credit. This prototype is the polar opposite of the caregiving, put upon, and martyred firstborn female for this prototype of the youngest thinks of no one but herself and her needs and damn everyone else and this includes her family.

I knew an employee like this. She was the youngest of five siblings. An apt description of her would be a pampered, spoiled, and selfish brat. She never did an honest day's work. She read all day while other employees worked their a##s off. Everyday I worked there, I wanted to strangle and slap her for she contributed nothing to the team. She was lazy. Although she dreamt about becoming a fashion designer(that requires guts and work), she never achieved that dream and is still a clerk after thirty years. Karma has a way of paying one back!

The rebellious, unconventional, try new ground youngest born female prototype is a joy to work with. These people are often innovative and do not believe in working according to outmoded and atavistic rules and regulations. Without those people, new inventions, new methodologies, and new technologies would not have been invented.

In relationships, the first prototype of the youngest born female is the type to steer clear away from. She is the worst daughter, sibling, and would make the worst wife and mother. She is no friend and companion. She is the taker in relationships but does not know how to give. Regarding the second prototype, this woman would add freshness and novelty to any relationship. She is a fun friend, daughter, sibling, wife, and mother. She knows how to give and take within an equilibrium.

Last but NOT LEAST, the female only child or singleton: although the only child is the most maligned of birth orders, it is one of the luckiest. The female only child is in a unique position. She does not have to share space with any siblings. She is the center and cause celebre of her parents' universe. Of course I am biased as I am an only child or as I prefer, a singleton.

The first prototype of the female singleton is the superambitious perfectionist. She is often the product of highly critical and perfectionistic parents who want their daughter to achieve the dreams that they could not achieve. So they drill into her that she must succeed and she better not FAIL or she would be subjected to their wrath. Many a superambitious perfectionist female singleton prototype are afraid to fail because if they fail, their parents will severely critique them to the point of damaging their self-esteem. Their parents maintain that she is their ONE and ONLY and she should not fail for all their hopes are on her.

The independent, solitary prototype of the female singleton believes that she is a law to herself. She seeks her own counsel and believes in being highly independent. Her mantra is that independence is her salvation. She is either a loner or has very few close friends. She asserts that she who travels alone travels the fastest. Her parents usually admonished how good it is to be independent and that a wise person depends upon no one but himself/herself.

Oh yes, then there is the prima donna prototype of the female singleton. This is the stereotypical image of the only child and/or singleton as spoiled, self-centered, and pampered. This person is the product of parents who simply overindulges their daughter, thinking nothing is too good for her without teaching the prerequisite skills of cooperation, work ethics, and life skills.

At work, the superambitious, perfectionistic singleton could be classified as a workaholic. This prototype is not above performing hard work and taking on extra assignments. Supervisors usually prize this type of employee and the reward for hard work is more hard work. People have told me this throughout my working career. I would usually work beyond the call of duty. However, in civil service, one cannot be promoted without taking a test. Guess what? I was always given extra assignments. Many times, I would skip lunch, just happily working along while the other employees performed their average amount of work. Yes, I would classify myself as a superambitious, perfectionistic singleton prototype. Eventually, I obtained my reward-my last position paid in the high five figures. I was reared by parents who pinned their hopes and dreams on me. I was taught that failure was a mortal sin and one must succeed.

This celebrity aptly fits the prototype of the superambitious, perfectionistic female singleton. She was born in South Africa to parents who were business owners. Her primary ambition was to study ballet; however, she incurred an injury and switched to acting. While she was in her 20s, she won an Academy Award and her acting career was placed on the fast track. She is now known as a very highly respected actress, producer, and a humanitarian. She admitted to being a perfectionist which resulted in her getting ulcers.

Then there is the independent, solitary prototype of the female singleton. She is the least obtrusive at work. Her mantra is leave me alone and let me work. This prototype can work with the least supervision for she is an independent thinker. This prototype does not like to be closely monitored nor closely supervised at work. Her motto is to work and let work.

The last prototype of female singleton I thoroughly detest. This is the type of employee who believes as the whiny, pampered, spoiled, and immature prototype of the youngest born female that she is above the rules at work. She believes that she can report to work late, leave early, take long breaks and lunches, and to perform the least work possible; however, she wants all of the credit. I knew a supervisor who fit this prototype. She told people to report to work on time yet she reported to work three to four hours late and when she reported to work, called her friends and talked on the phone all day. She did not know what occurred within our unit and was thoroughly slow in getting our reports in.

In relationships, the superambitious, perfectionistic female singleton can be trial to live with and to interface with. She has high and exacting standards which could put off many people. She can be a difficult daughter, mother, wife, and friend but she can be intensely loyal. The independent, solitary prototype of the female singleton is happiest being single and unencumbered. Marriage, motherhood, and relationships are not for her. She has other hobbies to keep her occupied. The prima donna prototype is the type most intelligent and sane people should steer clear of. This prototype is an emotional and psychic vampire who thinks of no one but herself and how she can use people. Here is my assessment of how birth order influences a woman's relationship with her parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues.

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams

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Deni Edwards profile image

Deni Edwards 4 years ago from california

This was a very interesting read!

It's interesting that you classified the "singleton" as "only" when describing the personality, because being a first-born child (and an only child for my first four years), I think I can relate to being classified into all of those categories at different points in my life.

That's a thought, isn't it?

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