The Oldest Child in the Family, Part 2/2
Example Setter and Standard Bearer for Younger Siblings
Parents are Stricter and More Stringent With Oldest Children
Oldest Child as Glamorous Adviser or Overburdend Second Parent
Oldest Children in Adulthood and Beyond
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.
More Hubs on the Subject
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- Does Birth Order Make a Difference in Traits?
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Books to Read on the Subject
Movies to Watch Regarding This Subject
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams