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Oldest Child vs. Only Child- How These Two Alpha Birth Orders Are Similar And Different

Updated on September 25, 2015
Both oldest and only children are strong willed and ambitious persons who always want to be FIRST!   They are the ALPHA birth orders.
Both oldest and only children are strong willed and ambitious persons who always want to be FIRST! They are the ALPHA birth orders. | Source

THE ALPHA BIRTH ORDERS

Both oldest and only children are considered to be alpha birth order.Both birth orders are intensely strong, assertive, and achievement oriented.Each birth order believe it is right and refused to back down.Each also wants to win and to be number 1.
Both oldest and only children are considered to be alpha birth order.Both birth orders are intensely strong, assertive, and achievement oriented.Each birth order believe it is right and refused to back down.Each also wants to win and to be number 1.

BOTH PRESSURED TO BE AN ADULT AT AN EARLY AGE

Oldest children are expected to mature quicker because he/she has to set an example for the younger siblings to emulate.He/she is often placed in responsible positions in the family.He/she is also held to a much higher and tougher standard.
Oldest children are expected to mature quicker because he/she has to set an example for the younger siblings to emulate.He/she is often placed in responsible positions in the family.He/she is also held to a much higher and tougher standard.
Only children must mature faster.They grow up in an adult environment where their primary interactors are their parents.As a result of this interaction with their parents, they develop adult mannerisms and vocabulary early in life.
Only children must mature faster.They grow up in an adult environment where their primary interactors are their parents.As a result of this interaction with their parents, they develop adult mannerisms and vocabulary early in life.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Oldest children are held to a more stringent and exacting parental standard.Because of these standards, they are overachievers.They are driven to succeed and oftentimes view failure as an affront to them.
Oldest children are held to a more stringent and exacting parental standard.Because of these standards, they are overachievers.They are driven to succeed and oftentimes view failure as an affront to them.
Only children have their parents' expectation and hope ON THEM.It is a GIVEN that they achieve and be highly successful in life.Because of such expectations, they tend to be highly ambitious and perfectionists.
Only children have their parents' expectation and hope ON THEM.It is a GIVEN that they achieve and be highly successful in life.Because of such expectations, they tend to be highly ambitious and perfectionists.

BE THE BEST OR NOTHING

Oldest and only children want to be FIRST. When they do something, they want to do it THE VERY BEST. They want to be in FIRST or NO PLACE. Their motto is if one cannot do the job well, then do not do it at all.
Oldest and only children want to be FIRST. When they do something, they want to do it THE VERY BEST. They want to be in FIRST or NO PLACE. Their motto is if one cannot do the job well, then do not do it at all.

WHEN OLDEST AND ONLY MEET

There will be an initial contest of willas as EACH BIRTH ORDER can be quite uncompromising. Gradually, there will be a MUTUAL RESPECT of each other 's resoluteness, achievement mentality, and a strong propensity not to suffer fools gladly.
There will be an initial contest of willas as EACH BIRTH ORDER can be quite uncompromising. Gradually, there will be a MUTUAL RESPECT of each other 's resoluteness, achievement mentality, and a strong propensity not to suffer fools gladly.

We Are Both First

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. However, there is a difference between only and oldest children. Oldest children were only children for a short period of time before they were dethroned upon the birth of a younger sibling whereas the only child was never dethroned and remain the center of their parent's universe.

Dr. Kevin Leman in his book, THE FIRSTBORN ADVANTAGE, both only and oldest children are considered firstborns and they have characteristics in common such as leadership, being conscientious, high self-confidence being responsible, and organized. Dr. Leman furthermore contended that only children are firstborns magnified. Only children are very perfectionistic because they are their parents' one and only which means that all parental hopes and dreams are placed upon them.

As a result of this, only children have the most pressure to succeed of all birth orders. Even though oldest children have a lot of pressure to succeed, parents figure that if the oldest children do not succeed, there are always other children in the family who will succeed. Oldest children as opposed to only children are expected by parents to set an example to their younger siblings. Only children, even though they are pressurized to succeed, are more free to develop their individual personas and are not locked into fixed family roles.

Both alpha birth orders are expected to be adults at early ages but for different reasons. Oldest children since they are the firstborn in their families are expected to be more mature and often given more responsibilities than their younger siblings. Oldest children, especially in large to very large families, are expected to be in loco parentis to their younger siblings. Oldest children in large to very large families are often the unpaid and unappreciated help, maid, and second parent to their younger siblings.

In small and medium sized families, oldest children are usually the advisers, leaders, and executives to their younger siblings. Although older children in small and medium families have responsible roles in the family, their leadership role is more glamorous than it for oldest children in large to very large families. Many oldest children in small and medium sized families relish the role of being the oldest child in contrast to oldest children in large families who view their roles as enforced servitude.

Only children are adults early because they grow up without siblings, only being exposed to their parents. Because the only immediate companions to only children are their parents, they develop adult mannerism at an early age in terms of advanced vocabularies and precociousness. Based upon their familial environment, only children are often comfortable around adults and older children. Only children find same age peers to be immature and childish. Furthermore as a result of intense parental interfacing with their only children, only children are often more intelligent and advanced than children with siblings.

Also there are marked differences between only and oldest children. Even though both only and oldest children are self-sufficient. Only children are often self-sufficient and independent because they have no siblings to rely on. Oldest children have siblings to rely on although most of the weight of the sibling relationship falls upon oldest children. In sibling relationships, younger siblings often rely on oldest children into adulthood and beyond.

Many oldest children are put upon by their families and often develop a martyr complex. Many oldest children tolerate all types of abuse from their family members; however, they do not speak up because they would be considered "selfish" if they do. There are some oldest children who are very authoritarian and controlling towards their younger siblings. They could be described as control freaks who believe that they know the most and are the only right ones in a relationship.

Only children are very assertive because of their position in the family. Only children are very independent and do not suffer fools gladly. Because only children are independent and self-sufficient, they expect everyone to be so. They do not believe in carrying people and believe that every tub sits on its own bottom.

Only children and oldest children because of their place in their respective families are very strong willed children who must have their way. Only children do this de facto because they have their parents all to themselves and do not have to compete with siblings for parental attention. Oldest children do this by subjugating and bossing their younger siblings around. Many oldest children know how to manipulate their younger siblings and be in a dominant position. Plenty of times, oldest children play the "poor unappreciated me" position in order to garner sympathy from people.

What happens when only children and oldest children enter into contact with each other. Well, this will be a very formidable relationship as only and oldest children are no shrinking violets. As a result of the are both firstborns, they are alpha people.

Only and oldest children can be highly contentious, thinking that they are the only ones right and will not back down from their dominant positions. Usually only and oldest children butt heads and enjoy a strong argument whether it is peer friendships, platonic relationships romantic relationships, and/or familial relationships.

As an only child, some of my most contentious relationships were that with oldest children. I also lived with an oldest child for years( my mother). Even though I love my mother very much, we often butted heads over such topics such as religion, fashions, lifestyle choices, morality, and a myriad of psychological, sociological, and philosophical issues. Sometimes we would have such intense arguments that we would not speak to each other for weeks at a time.

None of us would concede in an argument as we both wanted to be right at all costs. My father, a lastborn, used to say that my mother and I had too much in common. My father maintained that both of us would argue until forever. My mother is a firstborn child of ten siblings while I am an only child. Sometimes she would win the argument but most of the times, I would win and/or die trying.

I find it stimulating to enter verbal contests with peers and friends who are oldest children because it is a tug of war. No one of us will concede and it is a psychological contest as who is going to win this argument. Even though some of my most contentious relationships were with oldest children, conversely, some of my happiest and long-lasting relationships were with either only and/or oldest children. The average only and oldest child have a maturity, intelligence, and sophistication that a middle and/or youngest child do not have. For the most part, only and oldest children are very adultlike and mature even when they are children and teens. They are often more serious in outlook than middle and/or youngest children.

Even though only and oldest children can have a contentious relationship because both are the first in their families, there is often a begrudging respect for each other. Both birth orders are strong, self-confident, and highly aggressive. Only and oldest children always want to be right and on top. Only and oldest children always want to be the alpha, not the beta in the relationship whether it is familial, platonic, peer, and/or romantic. It usually takes a lot of compromise for only and oldest children to have a smooth relationship but onlies and oldest are not known for the art of compromise.

In conclusion, only and oldest children are both firstborns. Both only and oldest children have common characteristics such as being perfectionisitc, responsible, highly confident, and achievement oriented. Only and oldest children are expected by their families to be adults at an early age-only children because they only interact with adults, having no siblings while oldest children are assigned responsibilities for their younger siblings.

Although only and oldest children are pressured to achieve, only children are more pressured to succeed because parents place all their hopes and dreams on their only children. Oldest children are not under as much pressure to achieve because parents figure that if they fail, there will be younger children who will succeed.

There are also differences between only and oldest children. Only children are freer to develop their individual personas as there are no siblings to compete with whereas oldest children are often locked into more rigid familial roles because of their birth order. Oldest children tend to be caretakers and put upon while only children are self-sufficient and self-reliant and believe that others should be that way also.

Regarding commonalities, only and oldest children are very assertive and strong individuals who believe that they are the only right ones. Both birth orders are not known for being compromising. Their assertiveness is obvious when they enter any relationship ranging from friendship to familial. Although they can be uncompromising at times, they have more in common than they realize.

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams

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      Independent Thought Police 5 years ago

      I have to disagree with the overgeneralizations about intelligence and maturity in older and only children. I assume these are sterotypes and not intended to be definitive of all older and only children. I am the youngest of two children. My older brother has a Godsister who is an only child. Both my older brother and Godsister are rigid and "shallow" intellectually and tend to speack in cliche's. They are trite people who tend to group themselves with the herd. For example, my Godsister has a master's degree in Social Work and works as a Social Worker. My brother has a law degree and has failed the bar exam at least twice. He has worked for the same company for almost 30 years and has worked his way from the loading docks to the Human Resources office. OK, they've accomplished things and no one can say they are not educated and gainfully employed. I am older than my brother's Godsister by 3 years and younger than my brother by 2.5 years. However, I went to college on a full scholarship, graduated magna cum laude, earned a master's in rhetoric at the age of 24, began teaching college English at 24, worked as a journalist, and earned a doctorate. I am now a university professor. I also think critically and analyze situations and events most people do not or simply take for granted. Indeed, both my brother and his Godsister are oppressive authoritarians who only see what's immediately obvious and who believe in conformity and doing what others do in order to fit in and get along. My brother's Godsister is also dependent on her parents financially and emotionally. She "acts" superior and in control. During intellectual debates, I often win hands down, UNLESS, my brother shouts, uses insults, or simply raises his voice and talks over me or my brother's Godsister simply stops talking and ignores what I have said. I just do not agree with your analysis.

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      completely wrong... 4 years ago

      Although you were pretty much right on with what you were saying about the "oldest" child, you couldn't have been more wrong about an "only" child. My boyfriend is an only child, and he is the most inconsiderate,needy,selfish and spoiled man I have ever met in my entire life. Im not kidding at all when I say that I pretty much feel like I am his mother. He quit a job three days ago that he only had for less than three months because a coworker was being "mouthy" and he went and told his management and they didn't do anything about it. He pretty much just walked out because he didn't get his way. Everyone runs into problems like that at some point in any job, that's life, deal with it. Its got to be his way or no way, and he treats his mom like dirt. She does so much for him, and the more she does (or anyone for that matter, including me) the more he asks for. He is so ungrateful! After being with him, that will be one of my first questions for a new potential bf (are you an only child?), and there is no way that I'm only having one kid, heaven forbid they act like that.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Many only children are far from needy. In fact, only children are the most imaginative and independent of all birth orders. The only children that I know are extremely successful and independent. So your boyfriend being an only child is totally inconsequential in this matter.

      I know a person like this at work, she was whiny, clingy, and had to have her own way. She was the youngest of 5 children. If anyone said anything to her, she would burst into tears. Another person( a coworker) who had to have her own way or she would go into a tirade was the oldest of 7 children. She was quite the queen bee, she wanted everyone to wait on her hand and hand. This worker also had problems with EVERY supervisor she encountered!

      So stop this crapola about categorizing only children. The only children I know are highly independent and totally nononsense and don't suffer fools gladly.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To completely wrong, I want to add something else. Only children are some of the most illustruous and successful people around. Condoleeza Rice, Charlize Theron, Chelsea Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, Robert DeNiro, Natalie Portman, Betty White, and many others. I find that it is the ones with siblings who are highly dependent people!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I think birth order is overrated, we survive and grow strong as we are innately programmed to do. Birth order really is not a criteria as a measure of success. There are no studies that can truly support any fast cold data. Thanks for bringing up such a hot and interesting debate!

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      You are quite welcome, Rebecca!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think this is an interesting debate. I am an only child but I don't feel like I fit all of these characteristics of being headstrong and assertive. I grew up shy and withdrawn. Even now I have a hard time asserting myself in situations but I've developed better skills. My thing is that people always assume I was spoiled because it was just me. I liked things as much as the next kid but I know as well that my parents worked for what they gave me. Great and interesting hub, very well written.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you, Alecia, for your wonderful response!

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      Ashley 4 years ago

      This article was quite a read for me, as the oldest child, and it was interesting (to say the least) to relay to my fiancé - who happens to be an only child. I know these are vast generalizations for the most part, but I can't help but disagree strongly about oldest children. The pressure that was put on me for my entire life to take care of my siblings was definitely hard to deal with, especially now that I've entered adulthood and realized that my mother was completely absent. I don't feel as though this made me assertive or bossy, but quite maternal. I could never imagine treating my younger siblings the way that is described here. I would also have to disagree with what you've said about only children. My fiancé's mother's inability to let her son go is unbelievable. This affects him greatly. I don't believe that she ushered him into adulthood so quickly to better him, but to ensure that she would definitely be taken care of by her capable, strong, intelligent son. I find that the birth order rarely affects the child as much as it affects the parents. Especially the mother.

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Ashley, you made some excellent points. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Abbyfitz profile image

      Abbyfitz 4 years ago from Florida

      This was a very informative article. I think I would be classified as an only child because my siblings were grown by the time I came along. As a child I preferred adult company. Kids just acted stupid to me.

      I was always an overachiever, always had to get an A. I was always afraid of disappointing my parents.

      I do think I am always right lol

      I think your article is spot on! Good job and voted up!

    • gmwilliams profile image
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      Grace Marguerite Williams 4 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Thank you for your response Abby. I was the same way. I am an only child. Even as a child, I felt that other children acted stupid and immature. I felt more comfortable around adults- that is a GOOD thing.

    • Abbyfitz profile image

      Abbyfitz 4 years ago from Florida

      Yes, I think so too. My parents didn't have to worry about me hanging out with jerks lol

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      Francesca 2 years ago

      I think this article covers the assumptions of an only child and oldest I think the dynamic of your family effects is aswell. I am an oldest child and my younger sibling is my best friend and he has matured faster then say other children because he's had too ,my mother has bi-polar and we've had to adjust to be strong for her and our selves . In saying that he's creative ,intelligent and is vastly approaching his peers and everyday I am so proud to call him my brother and see him become a man . My dad is the dominant role model in our household and he could have left my mother scince her illness but he didn't because of his vows and because he's an honourable man and has stuck by her and done what he can for the family and because of that I too look for those qualities in a potential partner . An oldest who has a younger sibling (7 year gap) is a great combination and gives enough space to grow and let them both find their selves whilst still having a companion . Only children may have matured faster but I am maturing everyday whilst teaching my brother and wouldn't change having him as a sibling for the world :)

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