Birth Order and Personality

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  1. gmwilliams profile image83
    gmwilliamsposted 10 years ago
    Frank J. Sulloway in his breakout bestseller, BORN TO REBEL, indicated that one adopts attitudes and respond to the environment, familial or outside, based upon one's respective birth order.   Dr. Sulloway indicated that oldest children tend to be more conservative and are not adventurous.   He maintains that oldest children are stalwarts and support the status quo.   On the other hand, Dr. Sulloway maintain that it is the youngest children who are the most adventurous and are the ones who gravitate towards change.  What DO YOU think about this premise?

    Here's a link,

    1. wilderness profile image93
      wildernessposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Not with my kids - although only two of them, they are the opposite of that.

      1. SmartAndFun profile image94
        SmartAndFunposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Mine, too. I only have two kids, but the oldest (15) is quite the liberal-minded slacker (slacks off except when it comes to social justice or art) and the youngest (12) is much more responsible and motivated, and identifies with his conservative buddies. He is a little mystified that he comes from a family of democrats.

        On the other hand, my younger son had a bunch of kids over for his birthday last week, and it was very interesting that three of them, each the youngest of a three-child family, were somewhat obvious whiners and constantly protesting "that's not fair!" I didn't see this behavior from the youngest kids of two-child families. Interesting.

        1. gmwilliams profile image83
          gmwilliamsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Smart and Fun, what you have stated is quite interesting- and TRUE.   It seems that the larger the family, the more unequal parity between the oldest, middle, and youngest child.  In larger families of more than 2 children, youngest children tend to be babied and indulged more.  They also have LESS responsibilities at the same age in comparison to their oldest/older siblings who were inundated with responsibilities at an early age.   In 2-child families, youngest children are treated more or less the same as the oldest child in the family. 

          In elementary school, I recall that a youngest child of 2 sisters started to talk baby talk and the mother abruptly put a stop to this.   This mother informed the youngest child that she was not a baby and to act more maturely.    In contrast, there was a mother of 6 who let the youngest run amok and harangue one of the older siblings.   When the older sibling admonished the child, the mother told the sibling to leave "the baby" alone.   You are right, Smart and Fun, youngest children of larger families tend to whine and to act the part of the baby.  I HAVE NOTICED this myself among members of my extended family and among friends.   My youngest aunt had no responsibilities AT ALL in comparison to my oldest aunt and mother.   She rode the waves, never DID any chores, an older cousin(one of two) and my grandmother did the chores.    Great and astute observation, Smart and Fun!

    2. profile image0
      Beth37posted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Im not sure, GM, but it kinda seems like those kids could use a bath. lol

  2. gmwilliams profile image83
    gmwilliamsposted 10 years ago

    Oldest children are held up TOUGH standards.  They must be on and perfect.  Parental pressure makes oldest children overachievers in order to garner parental respect also they are under pressure because younger eyes look up to them so they have to be on their Ps and Qs.

    That makes oldest children highly authoritarian and conservative.  They have to be forever perfect and not make mistakes lest they are considered to have fallen from grace.   Oldest children must walk the CHALK line and be on the straight and narrow.  God pity the oldest child!

    Oldest children are expected to be superhuman, even in childhood.  They are expected to ADULTS even in childhood.  They are also punished for offenses that younger child commit.  Yes, the oldest children are screwed in more ways than one.    This is the life of many oldest children, a mild to severe HELL:

    Youngest children, on the contrary, have THE BEST of all world.  They are babied and indulged in comparison to their oldest/older siblings.  Also they are going leeway in terms of behavior.  They get away with stuff for which their oldest siblings would be punished for.  This wide leeway in behavior accounts as to why youngest children are more experimental.   

    Also since older siblings have done this and done that, younger children try things that no one has attempted before.  Since youngest children do not have to grow up as fast, they are free to experiment and test the waters.  The lives of many youngest children in families are quite heavenly in comparison to the oldest child:

  3. janesix profile image60
    janesixposted 10 years ago

    Which one, do you think, is the most likely to be greedy, take everything, and let the others STARVE STARVE STARVE?

    1. gmwilliams profile image83
      gmwilliamsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Many oldest children can be quite territorial with their younger siblings.  They feel that because of their ordinal birth control, they are smarter, stronger, and more powerful.  There are oldest children who can be quite controlling and quite authoritarian in their relationships with younger siblings.  Their premise is that might=power=right

      Many oldest children aren't comfortable dealing with equals or persons who are  MORE.  I have found that many oldest children are quite comfortable with those who are perceived to be less because the latter is nonthreatening to the respective oldest child's status quo.

      I know many oldest children who have friends and associates who are either younger or are less powerful than they are.  Oldest children love to RULE and establish dominance(oh boy, another hub topic CAME to mind to write about!) . It is in the oldest child's psychology.

      1. profile image0
        calculus-geometryposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        It's a trade-off.  An older sibling might be more domineering, but the younger sibling gets the benefit of having another caretaker to watch over him/her.  Older siblings can be like secondary parents who are more approachable and less embarrassing in some cases. 

        Imagine a 9-year-old boy who wants someone to walk him home from school because bullies bother him once he leaves school grounds.  He'd be seen as a dork if his mom walks him home, but if his 14-year-old brother accompanies him it's more socially acceptable.  And then when they get home the older brother takes up all the space on the couch and makes the younger brother sit on the floor.   It's a give and take that balances out.

        1. gmwilliams profile image83
          gmwilliamsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Cal, you and I know this.  Oldest children are secondary parents; that is par for the course.  How many oldest children have NO or LITTLE me time.  They are always ON  24/7/365.  Being the oldest is the MOST DIFFICULT of all birth orders, believe it or not.  It is the oldest child whose ALL eyes are on.  The oldest child must always be forever vigilant.  He/she is never relaxed.  He/she is held to much higher standards.  He/she receives NO SLACK.  As I have reiterated, the life of many oldest children are quite hellish in comparison to the youngest child who gets away with PURE MURDER!   Youngest child is the SPOILED one who has it MADE IN THE SHADE.    With all the pressures placed on the oldest child, no wonder he/she exercises dominance over the younger siblings- it is a combination of resentment and revenge. 

          In many families, oldest children are routinely cast aside and/or discarded in favor of younger siblings.  However, such actions are more prevalent in medium large to very large families where there are 5 or more children per household.  Either the oldest child is discarded or he/she is pressed into the service of parents and younger siblings.  A lot of oldest children can be described as weary-they have endured the most hellish of circumstances while they are still children.  Sad, really!

          Cal, regarding your last statement, yes, the oldest child can be quite domineering but HOWEVER.....yes, there is a however.  The youngest child can tell the parents what the oldest child DID. And guess whose side will the parents take?  The precious youngest, after all, he/she is THE BABY and HOW DARE the oldest child treat the PRECIOUS BABY WRONG and the oldest children will GET THE PUNISHMENT  as a result!  Youngest children often get away with MURDER.

          Oldest children have POWER in smaller families of 2-4 children.  They have the glamor and power of being the oldest.  They have some responsibilities but they are still children.  Not so in medium large to very large families of 5 or more children per household, in such families, there is NO GLAMOR  NOR POWER in being the oldest child.

          He/she is the drudge and slave w/o no say in how things go.  He/she is at the beck and call of parents/siblings 24/7/365  He is really a persona non grata as far as the family goes.  The life of many oldest children in medium large to very large families is like this:

  4. profile image0
    calculus-geometryposted 10 years ago

    As far as I've seen,  pop-psych birth order theory holds up okay when siblings are not too spread out or too close together.  But when the age spread is large or really tight, it fails to adequately explain differences in siblings' personalities.  I think pop-psychologist proponents of birth order personality theory base their beliefs on an idealized age gap of 3 years. 

    I suppose there's money to be made in the untapped pop-psych niche of age gap theory.

    1. gmwilliams profile image83
      gmwilliamsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      According to many psychologists, if there is a six year age gap or more between siblings, each one is considered to be an only child.

      1. profile image0
        Beth37posted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I am the youngest of three, 8 yrs younger than my brother and 6 yrs younger than my sister.

  5. Nadine May profile image74
    Nadine Mayposted 10 years ago

    I'm the oldest but have always been the most adventurous. For me it all depends on the personality type, not who was first middle of last.

    1. watergeek profile image95
      watergeekposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      I am the oldest of eight. I joined the Peace Corps twice, 10 years apart, am politically active and very liberal. My 2nd-in-line brother (1.5 yrs. younger) has worked for the Navy for 30 years, designing software for submarine weapons systems. The middle youngers are not political, but live a little more liberal than conservative. The next to youngest is pretty much a Tea Partier. The youngest (whom I taught to walk) is liberal like me.

      1. gmwilliams profile image83
        gmwilliamsposted 8 years agoin reply to this

        Oldest children have it ......TOUGH.  They are the experiment children.  They are also the sacrificial children.  They are the example setters.   They oftentimes have to be adults......VERY EARLY.   However, in small & medium families, oldest children do have normative childhoods & adolescence.  In medium large, large, & very large families, oldest children are parents to their OWN parents & siblings.  These oldest children HAVEN'T individual lives, normative childhoods & adolescence.   They are adults during their childhoods while other children are free to have normative childhoods & adolescence. 

        Middle children.........well.  They are in-between.  They aren't really individuals but appendages of either the older or younger siblings.  They have what is called the Jan Brady syndrome.   They are ignored, overlooked, or even forgotten.   In medium families, middle children may be overlooked but in medium large, large, & very large families, they are simply anonymous with many falling through the familial cracks into oblivion.  In many larger families, middle children have to be VERY AGGRESSIVE in order to be even noticed.

        Youngest children have it....made.  Well, in small families, there is an equal parity between oldest & youngest children.  In small families, youngest children really don't get away with so many.  The rule is what is good for the oldest is good for the youngest.  The same ruling goes for youngest children in medium families.  However, in medium large, large, & very large families, youngest children are the indulged, pampered ones who can get away with......murder.  They are also the ones with the LEAST responsibilities & the most unencumbered childhoods & adolescence.  They are in heavenly bliss compared to their oldest siblings who had to endure hellish childhoods & adolescence.

        Then there is the only child.  The only child is the luckiest & freest of all birth orders.  They aren't ever dethroned.  They never have to endure the drama of competing for parental attention.  They have the world at their feet so to speak.  They have opportunities that those from multichild families don't have, especially in terms of socioeconomic & educational opportunities.  Only children are the most likely to have tertiary education & beyond.  Besides that, they are highly independent & resourceful.  They are very imaginative & creative.  They are also adult-like at an early age but in a more positive & glamorous fashion than the oldest child who have a more negative, grueling experience of becoming an adult early.

    2. gmwilliams profile image83
      gmwilliamsposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      According to the Sulloway & Kevin Leman birth order books, oldest children are the least adventurous.  They are held to extremely stringent standards.  Dr. Sulloway indicated that oldest children, on the whole, are the most conservative of all birth orders.  They are also the most conforming of all birth orders.


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