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The DARK Side of Birth Order, The Oldest Child In The Family-Part 1
The Birth Order Games That We Play
Birth order is an important component in family life. All of us were/are affected by our place in the family constellation in one way or other. There is the lionized or put upon oldest child, the overlooked or nebulous middle child, the pampered or just tolerated youngest child, or the independent or prima donna only child.
All of us come from one type of birth order or another. There is no escaping from the birth order scenario. Even people who purport that the issue of birth order was totally inconsequential, are affect by their respective birth order nonetheless.
There have been many discussions on the positive aspects of birth order. I have detailed the positive aspects of birth order in my previous hubs. Now, I am just going to discuss the negative aspects of birth order. There are negative aspects to being an individual birth order. There are people who were negatively impacted by their respective birth orders as well as those who were positively affected by their birth orders. To every positive, there is always a negative aspect!
Oldest children were only children once. During that time, they were the center of their parent's universe. Parents are often inexperienced upon the arrival of their first child. They want to do everything they can to assure that their first child is comfortable and well-cared for. Then there comes the new arrival.
Now, the oldest child feels slighted as if he/she is not as important as the new arrival. In essence, he/she believed that he/she is dethroned by this new arrival. He/she contends that he/she will never be the center of his/her parents' individual attention and love even again. From now on, parental time must be shared with the new sibling.
There are a few oldest children who overtly show their resentment towards their newly arrived younger sibling. They view the younger sibling as an unwelcome intrusion in their well order familial universe that they once shared with their parents. Some even go far as asking their parents if the new sibling could be return to his/her original place. Others are more covert in showing their resentment. Outside, they adapt the facade of accepting their younger sibling whereas inwardly, they feel some type of resentment of their younger sibling. Quite a few even act in ways towards their younger sibling which is more insidious.
Still other oldest children find another way to sublimate this resentment. They adopt a facade of the "good/perfect sibling" to demonstrate to their parents that they are worthy of parental love. They also want to show their parents that they do not need their parents as much and they will be quite alright on their own. Many more adept this facade as not to become a problem to their parents as the former have their hands full in being preoccupied in caring for a younger sibling.
A few oldest children revert to more childish mannerisms in order to garner parental attention. In their estimation, the younger sibling is receiving all of the parental attention. They figure that they are going to resort to a methodology that is necessary in order to make their parents realize that they are just as worthy as the younger sibling. They portend that since the younger sibling is now getting all of the parental attention, they believe that acting more "infantile" will make their parents consider them as a baby too, deserving of love.
As many oldest children become older, they use their ordinal position as a basis of powerplay between them and their younger sibling/siblings. It is their contention that might is always equivalent to power and right. They are quite adept at using manipulative games and other forms of upmanship in order to keep the younger sibling/siblings in line and to have them do the former's bidding.
It is second nature for many oldest children to be quite controlling and authoritarian in dealings with their younger sibling/siblings. They portend that since they are the oldest, they have the best interests of the younger sibling/siblings at heart. After that, they contend the younger sibling/siblings do not know any better so they need someone to direct them so to speak. It is their assertion that since they have the more life experience than their younger sibling/siblings, their younger sibling/siblings should unquestioning follow their lead without question and fanfare. After all, they are the oldest, hence they are right!
Some oldest children even believe that they know more than the parents. They even usurp the role and authority of the parents in the family. They reason that since they are the oldest among their siblings, they are just as an authority figure as the parents albeit a more contemporary one. They opine that since they know more and have more experience than their younger sibling/sibings, everything would go well if the latter listens to them and follow their saged advice.
Quite a few oldest children even are more extreme, using their ordinal position to abuse and bully their younger sibling/siblings, using the aforementioned premise. They believe that because they are the oldest child, they have carte blanche to treat their younger sibling/siblings any way they please. They assert that they are the stronger ones while the younger sibling/siblings are the weaker ones who can do nothing about the situation. Or they further contend, the younger sibling/siblings had better not for they have the means and power to retaliate against their younger sibling/siblings in one form or another. They are of the school that since they are the oldest children, they have carte blanche to treat their younger sibling/siblings any way they please with no questions asked.
More oldest children play the the poor me or martyr game in order to make their parents and younger sibling/siblings take notice of how they have helped the family. They maintain that after all they have done, no one in the family cares nor appreciates them. They further assert that there is an unspoken family rule that they are expected to be there for their parents and to help out, if not be the second parent, to their younger sibling/siblings. There are no ifs, ands, and/or buts regarding the situation at hand.
An extreme case of the abovementioned scenario is the oldest child who puts other family members needs before his/her own. He/she believes that the main role of his/her existence is to serve his/her parents and younger sibling/siblings. He/she further contends that there is an unspoken and/or unwritten expectation on the part of the parents and/or other family members that he/she is to be family source.
Such oldest children have no individual lives of their own because they have to be the everyperson to their parents and/or younger sibling/siblings. They develop quite a masochistic relationship with other family members whose wants and desires are always placed first and foremost. Many such oldest children do not dare protest lest they be called unfeeling and selfish. So they learn to sublimate their wants, desires, and aspirations for the supposed good of the entire family unit. Because these oldest children were taught to put their needs last, many family members, especially the younger sibling/siblings take advantage of the former's goodness and generosity. Since they were inculcated with never openly expressing their needs and never setting reasonable boundaries, they are slated to be the perpetual doormats of their families.
There are oldest children who feel pressured to be ever so perfect because they must set an example of utter propriety for their younger sibling/siblings. They are not allowed to be children but must be the little men or little women, starting from early childhood. They feel that they do not have much leeway of behavior as their younger sibling/siblings have at the same age. They cannot relax and be free to explore as other children can. They also contend that they cannot make a mistake and/or fail because what would their younger sibling/siblings think of them. They cannot be less than perfect as they will lose face and/or respect of their younger sibling/siblings as well as their parents who are counting on them. They must appear as if they are on stage 24/7/365!
Because of the exact and stringent standards that many oldest children are subjected to, many are fearful of failure and prefer to take a path in which success is guaranteed. They also develop a very conservative mindset and are quite fearful of the unknown and unexpected. They can be obsessively driven, either being successful after the first couple of trials and/or giving up and/or not even trying because there is the prospect that they will fail. To many oldest children, failure is a four letter that is best to be avoided like the plague. Failure to many oldest children means dishonor and disgrace in the eyes of their families who often expect nothing less than perfection from them.
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© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams