Birth Order: Where Do You Fit In?

What are your thoughts on the Birth Order Theory?

  • I see the value in it, but don't agree.
  • I think its ridiculous. Why would someone write about this?
  • I think its great and agree with some of it.
  • I live by it!
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Do You Believe?

Where do you rank in the sibling chain of command of your family? Are you the oldest? Are you the middle child? Are you the youngest? What does that entail? Now that you are older, does your place in the family matter as much as it did ten, twenty years ago? Do you believe your chronological age really makes a difference? Why or why not? Do you wish that there was a theory to explain the behavior of yourself and your siblings? Wish no more for there is indeed a theory that does just that, the Birth Order Theory.

I first learned about the birth order theory a few years ago during a psychology class. This theory essentially states that all children, the oldest , middle, or youngest, have certain personality traits because of their place in the family. Some members of the mental health field believe this theory has a truth to it. Alfred Adler, a psychotherapist, founded the Alfred Adler Institutes on this theory i.e. birth order does affect an individual’s personality and place in society. Other psychologists and mental health professionals, believe that the birth order theory is about as scientific as astrology. They believe that a person’s personality is influenced more by society than by genetics.

I believe in this theory because of my experience in my own family. According to this theory, the oldest child is use to being the center of attention. He/she is compelled to hold superiority over other children. For the oldest child, being right often is very important. Parents push the oldest child because they have high expectations for them. Lastly, he/she is a hard working perfectionist who is likely to be successful and responsible.

This describes my brother, Joel, a Harvard University graduate, "to a T." Since kindergarten, he worked towards his goal of going to Harvard. Little Joel had a Harvard bumper sticker on his Curious George lunch box and always wrote about going to Harvard for every time the class assignment about what he‘d do in the future was assigned. I don’t know who put the idea of going to Harvard into his head. It could've been my mother, or, just as easily, a movie. The exact reason carries no weight. Because Joel always got excellent grades in school, thus was smarter than other children, he felt superior to them. Because he was never wrong in school, he thought he was right about everything else. Joel’s brain always made him the center of attention. He has always been successful.

The middle children, says the theory, are good at making friends and are “people-pleasing.” Middle children let others walk all over them. They worry about being overlooked. They feel life is unfair. They feel unloved. They feel like they don’t have a place in the family. The middle child becomes easily discouraged and is often seen as the "problem child." They elevate themselves by putting down other siblings. Lastly, they don’t have the rights of the oldest child nor the privileges of the youngest.

This is my brother Steven, the actor. My brother always puts his friends before everything else. This has had disastrous consequences for him. He nearly failed high school, went broke, and had to be bailed out financially many times, not by friends, but by family. Steven has always complained about not being loved by our family and not really feeling like he fits in. He would never blame his bad decisions on himself, but on how unfair life is. My mother sees him as the “problem child.” He is the one who talks back to her and the one who always needs to be taken care of by her. Steven is famous for using put downs as a defense mechanism. Growing up, we loved him dearly, but we never wanted to be around him. We easily could've made him feel isolated. Happily, Steven is a success now and we're all very proud of him.

The youngest child likes to entertain and show off. Charming one minute and hard to handle the next, the youngest child worries about not being taken seriously and suffers from feelings of inferiority. The youngest child often surpasses older siblings. They boss the family and get their own way. The youngest child is "the Baby" no matter how old. Lastly, if the youngest is the youngest of three children, he or she often allies with the oldest child against the middle child.

I am the youngest child and this definition describes me. Since I was three, I have been involved in theatre. I didn’t really know what I was doing, nor did I care. I just knew that it made my mother and grandmother happy to see me twirling around and I liked being the center of their attention. I liked making people happy more than anything else, though. Now this next one is hard to admit, but it’s true. People tell me I have amazing mood swings and that I can be a real diva. I know that I do worry about people not taking me seriously. I joke a lot, but it is really a cover for how self-conscious I feel. I am the boss of my family when my mother is not around. I’m the most responsible of the three of us and even though we are all grown-up, I am the one my mother leaves in charge when she is away. I get my own way most of the time because I do many things like my mother. I am always called “the baby” and I’m sure it will always be this way. Regardless of how many important things I’ll accomplish in my lifetime, no one in my family will ever see me as anything, but my two-year-old self. It’s just something I’m going to have to accept, as my grandmother says. And I have always allied with Joel against Steven. It is just that Joel and I think alike about most things and what we want done is the sensible thing. Steven can be pretty impractical a lot of the time.

So now you know about my brothers and me. Are we unique? No, we are not, as you will see from the following experiences of three of my friends and their siblings.

Lisa Silverman is a 22-year-old college senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. She is the youngest of her family. She has two older sisters, Margaret and Kristen. Margaret is the oldest and is training to be a dentist. Kristen is the middle child and is a freshman at a local community college.

“I’m really the middle child. I’m ignored a lot. Mags is the beautiful one and Kristen is the one who gets babied. I’m just the one who smokes a pack a day,” Lisa says, laughing. “It’s sad, but none of those birth order things apply to me. I guess that makes me even more abnormal than I thought.”

Beth Lambert is a 19-year-old college sophomore at Smith College in Northampton,MA and, until last month, she was the youngest of her family. She has an older brother, Alex, and a younger half brother, Gavin. Alex is a bank teller at a credit union in Lowell, MA. Gavin is a one month old who currently specializes in giggling and drooling.

“It's weird not being the baby anymore,” she says. “I was the baby for so long. I don’t think I’ll ever fit the description of the middle child. I think its more of a phase thing anyway, and I’m too old to go through those nasty phases.”

Kate Clark is an 21-year-old college junior at Florida State and the oldest child of her family. She has a younger brother, Shuler, who is a high school sophomore.

“Sometimes I feel like a mom to my brother, but, at least, he comes to me with problems.” Kate says. “ I’m a role model to him, which is cool. Sometimes I don’t set the best example, but he can learn from that too.”

So, what do you think? Are our personality traits determined by our birth order? Would we be the same individuals if we held a different place in our family? I don’t believe so.

Information I consulted when writing this:

Alfred Adler Institutes. Adlerian Overview of Birth Order Characteristics http://www.Adlerian.us/birthord.htm

Child Development Institute . Birth Order Page . http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/birth_order.htm.

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Comments 18 comments

Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

I am the oldest of two --both of us girls.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I think it's a useful guide, but not a rule.

I'm the eldest of four, and yes, I'm ambitious and in a professional career (-:


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

I don't thinkit is a rule either becasue my sister was always treated as the oldest. I was like the black sheep because I didn't do anything like my mom or sister.


Kind Regards profile image

Kind Regards 7 years ago from Missouri Ozarks - Table Rock Lake

I really see this in my brother, the middle child, when you wrote, "They feel life is unfair. They feel unloved. They feel like they don’t have a place in the family." I've always felt bad about this, but now I can understand better.


DrStein 7 years ago

The Classical Adlerian Psychology web site address has been changed to http://www.Adlerian.us. Please correct the older link (http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/hstein/) as it is no longer active.

The new birth order link is http://www.Adlerian.us/birthord.htm

Also, please change "The Alfred Adler Institute of San Francisco" to "The Alfred Adler Institutes of Northwestern Washington and San Francisco."


LowellWriter profile image

LowellWriter 7 years ago from Lowell, MA Author

Thanks for writing, Dr. Stein.


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

I'm a happy, smack-in-the-middle, child; and I have to say I've never seen much in the birth order books that apply in my family. I've read that more spacing between siblings can change things, and my siblings and I are 4.5 years apart. Maybe that accounts for it. I don't really see it in my own three children either. This isn't to second-guess your Hub - only to point out that what the books say doesn't always apply.


LowellWriter profile image

LowellWriter 7 years ago from Lowell, MA Author

Thanks for your comment, Lisa. I never claimed it went for everyone. Its all in how you look at it and apply it to your life. By the way, my brothers are 4 & 5 years older than me.


love my yorkies profile image

love my yorkies 7 years ago from way out west

Birth order is all great and well with three children, but what happens when there are more than that. I'm the fourth child out of five. got any ideas


LowellWriter profile image

LowellWriter 7 years ago from Lowell, MA Author

I believe you'd fall into the middle child category. From what I understood from my research the first and final children are to be treated as book ends of the family. The child(ren) who fall between those two kids are in the middle and thus tend to display middle child tendencies. Hope that helped you! :)


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

Good hub...I think that in general, it is true. I was the fith child of six. I was a mid and baby problem! :)


LowellWriter profile image

LowellWriter 7 years ago from Lowell, MA Author

Thanks for the comment, Tom! :o)


truefreedom profile image

truefreedom 7 years ago

I'm the eldest of four kids...Some of the characteristics definately fit me! :)


LowellWriter profile image

LowellWriter 7 years ago from Lowell, MA Author

Good to know, True. Thanks for the comment! :)


gmwilliams profile image

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

This is such an excellent hub.


d.william profile image

d.william 4 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Excellent article, very informative, and accurately portrayed. I am from a family of 11 children and these characteristics are prevalent in segments of 3, believe it or not. Probably why we were such a dysfunctional family. Too much confusion, not enough equality, and never enough individual attention.

Today as older adults, we are not very close (even more so after both parents passed on) and most of us moved away from family and created a life of our own without these influences.


Bubby 20 months ago

Action requires kngwdeloe, and now I can act!


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