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Birth Order Personality Traits: Can You Relate?

Updated on May 14, 2013
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Birth Order Theory

Birth order can be explained as the order in which children are born into a family (first child, second child etc.).

It has long been theorized that the birth order of children can lay the ground work for psychological development and other meaningful lifetime experiences.

Early theorist Alfred Adler was one of the first theorists to suggest that birth order has a profound effect on an individuals personality.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

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Alfred Adler

Adler believed that birth order influenced an individuals personality in such a way that family relationships, work ethics, and love relationships were in turn affected.

Adler who was a "middle" child himself believed that we are all born inferior and look for acceptance from our loved ones. He coined this theory as striving for superiority and believed that this theory of searching for superiority was one of the driving motivations of human beings.

Bill & Hillary Clinton
Bill & Hillary Clinton | Source

Psychology and the Child: Birth Order

The First Child

According to Adler, eldest children are socially dominant, very intelligent, reliable, ambitious and cautious. They tend to be born natural leaders. First born children are given their parents undivided attention, love, and presence from day one.

However, first born children are less likely to be open to new things, ideas and people. They are prone to be perfectionists and are almost always people pleasers. They constantly seek approval from their loved ones and strive for excellence at every turn.

Famous First Borns:

  • Bill & Hillary Clinton
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Bill Cosby

First Born Facts

  • More than 50% of all Nobel Prize winners have been first born children
  • More than 50% of all U.S. Presidents have been first born children
  • A large part of Harvard and Yale graduates are first born children


Some things a first born may say:

  • "I never get away with anything."
  • "Everyone always depends on me."
  • "I never got to be a kid."
  • "Why do I have to do everything?"

Source

The Middle Child

Since parents are often more easy-going and less demanding with second and third children, the "middle" child seems to have it easier. The parents are passed the don't touch this, don't do that, and have a more go with the flow type attitude towards parenting.

As a result, many middle children end up with a more relaxed attitude towards life than their older siblings.

Characteristics of the middle child include a competitive nature (rightfully so, they are competing for mom and dads attention form day one). With their creative nature middle children also have the tendency to become the entrepreneurs of the family.

Often coming up with grand ideas that set them apart from the crowd. They tend to be the most diplomatic, flexible and seek parental praise the whole way. They also tend to be natural negotiators and develop closer relationships with family and friends then their siblings.

Some things the middle child may say....

  • "Nobody understands me."
  • "Nobody ever listens to me."
  • "My older sister/brother gets to do everything."
  • "My younger siblings never get in trouble."

Famous Middle Children

  • Madonna
  • David Lettermen
  • Princess Diana
  • Barbra Walters
  • Sarah Palin

Source

The Youngest Child

By the time the youngest child rolls around mom and dad have travelled the road of "firsts" many times (the first word, the first steps, the first day of school etc.). Not to say that each time a child embarks on a "first" it's not special, it's just that the youngest child tends to get the "shaft" in this area.

The youngest child brings to mind the term "send in the clowns". Reason being is the youngest of the family tends to be fun, charming, confident, and the life of the party.

However the youngest child tends to be the rebellious, rule breaking, dependant, selfish and manipulative child of the family. They are often persistent to a fault and want things their way or no way (turning on the charm is easy for these children). They also tend to be the most financially irresponsible as they age.

Famous Youngest Children "Babies"

Famous "babies":

  • Jim Carey
  • Billy Crystal
  • Goldie Hawn
  • Rosie Odonnel
  • Cameron Diaz


The Only Child

Multiply the oldest child by the youngest child and you have the only child.

They tend to be spoiled from birth and have a hard time when they don't get their way. Transitioning into school can be difficult for them since they are usually the center of the family. Only children tend to be mature for their age (as they socialize with their adult counterparts), their vocabularies are well above average and they find comfort in "hanging out with adults". They also tend to entertain themselves quite well.

Only children are confident, responsible, encouraging, and articulate on many levels.

However, this does not always work to their advantage as being "thrust" into the world can sometimes be a dramatic transition like many transitions for the only child.

Do you find you share any of these birth order characteristics?

See results

Of course there are exceptions....

It's important to note that there will always be exceptions to the "rules".

Birth order theory is just that a theory. A combination of studies over a long period of time that yielded similar results.

That said....

Personally:

as the oldest child in the family I can honestly say relate in more ways then one to the oldest child theory. However on a side note there are 6 years between my younger brother and I so I was also an "only" child for many years as well. I would categorize myself as a mix between the oldest child and an only child.

What about you?

Can you relate?

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©Rebecca Fiskaali-Fordin 2012

All Text Rights Reserved

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    • Rfordin profile image
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      Rfordin 2 years ago from Florida

      Hi Leanne,

      I am very familiar with Asperger's and think it's one of the more intriguing spectrum's of Autism.

      I'm glad you found truth in there. I'm the oldest myself and I am the leader, the over achiever, and all the other typical "oldest" child traits wrapped into one.

      Thanks for stopping by to see me.

      :),

      Becky

    • profile image

      Leanne 2 years ago

      Yes! I'm the oldest child (and the only girl) in my immediate family (I do have older cousins, though). But my parents only had 2 children (my brother and me). And yes, I do tend to be very determined and ambitious. And yes, I do remember saying, "I never get away with anything, my brother gets away with more than I do! It's not fair!" Well, ok, maybe I never said that, but I do remember thinking it a lot! I have Asperger Syndrome (high-functioning Autism), and therefore I understand pragmatic language differently. I thought it wasn't fair because it wasn't the same as what I would've gotten when I was his age.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 4 years ago from Minnesota

      I have 3 sisters and this definitely has some validity to it! :) I was a middle child and I think this was very accurate for that!

    • gmwilliams profile image

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

      This hub is so succinct in its analysis regarding the issue of birth order. Oldest children are the responsible and overburdened ones, middle children are often shadowy and overlooked, the youngest are the attention grabbers, the babies, and the jewels, and only children are the self-sufficient, independent, creative, and perfectionists. I, too, have written numerous hubs regarding birth order. This hub is excellent and I have voted it up.

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

      I too am a first born but with such a wide age difference between my self and my younger brother I show characteristics of an oldest child, youngest child, and only child....Glad you found a relation. More often then not people are able to find some similarities between birth order and their individual personalities and/or temperaments.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      ~Becky

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I found this fascinating and true. I am a first born, and tend to give a lot of opinions. And yes, more was expected of me than my brother! This was fascinating, and thank you!Passing it on.

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

      Chances are you share a lot of the oldest and youngest characteristics then (then again who know's there's no "middle/middle" child theory that I know of). :)

      Thanks for stopping by to see me!!!

      ~Becky

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Interesting! I can see the oldest and youngest, but I have a hard time fitting myself in a category, as I'm part of two middle children in a family of four kids. :-) Nice article!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 4 years ago from South Africa

      Very interesting article about birth order having an effect on an individual's personality. Voted up and interesting.

      BTW, I am a first born and the eldest of five. Although I have the typical characteristics of a first born, I also have some of the characteristics of the rest.

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

      Hi Alecia,

      Your right I'm sure this is just a general rule and as you mentioned every theory out there can be contested in one way or another. I agree and disagree with a lot of the traits that I "should" have in theory. I am the oldest but my younger sibling is 6 years younger so I am also an only child... I would have to say I do fall into the "spoiled" generalaztion but I think there are many factors that come into play with "flaw" not just where I was born in the "birth order".

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I'm an only child but I have characteristics of both an only and an oldest. One thing I always contest is that all only children are spoiled. And while that is true for some, it's not for all. I have friends who are only children and they are successful, responsible, and well-educated they know how to take care of themselves without giving into everything they want. As far as adapting, I had trouble but I think it had to do more with shyness than birth order. But as with any theory, there are portions you can both agree and disagree with. Interesting hub!

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

      Yeah since I'm 6 years older than my only sibling I too share characterisitcs of an only child and the oldest child. Strange how much birth order comes into play, but just like everything in life were products of our exsistence. :)

      ~Becky

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      As I look at our children, I can definitely see these characteristics. We have seven, four older and three younger. The middle child in the family is like the youngest of the oldest and the oldest of the youngest. When I told her teachers in school this, they were able to understand her dual personality characteristics. I definitely see the patterns in both groups of children that match what you have described so well here.

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Loved this article! I am a middle child and like to think I'm diplomatic and flexible and an awesome negotiator at least in my own mind and truly enjoy negotiating. I can't say I'm an entrepreneur but there is still time. Voted up!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I love this. The first born always tends to want to fulfill the expectations of others and always feels that he needs to make everyone happy...I do agree as I am first born and do fit that mould. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey Cogerson,

      I love the "juggle with knives" comment. It seems to fit. I've also heard "the first one is like glass, the second is like rubber" maybe that's the theory your parents imposed when they Ok'ed football?

      Either way I like that your wife teases that they "didin't care about you". Do you find yourself "caring less" about the younger ones in your broad?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

      A very interesting hub.....I am the youngest child in my family....I agree with your understanding on the "babies" of the family. My parent's were so protective of my older brother that he could not do much growing up...by the time I came around...they let me juggle with knives...lol. Actually the best example is football....my brother begged and pleaded to play high school football....but they never would let him play...and it was something that always bugged him. Meanwhile 6 years later....I got the chance to play....so I went to my parents prepared for a no answer and ready to beg to play....it took them about 30 seconds to agree to let me play. I did not see that one coming....my wife jokes that my parents really loved my brother and did not care what happened to me....lol.

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hmm... I'm surprised that didin't manage to find it's way in there... I'll have to go back and "fit it in" cause surely that belongs in there.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I can very much relate to the middle child syndrome. I agree with the findings. Except there is one thing missing...the middle child is often forgotten, not by the side of the road type of thing...more like overlooked. I'm over it. Ya think? Haha! :)

    • creativespirit63 profile image

      creativespirit63 5 years ago from Omaha, Nebraska

      Nice explanation! I think of this so often when looking at my own siblings. Adler nailed it for us!

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey Deborah,

      I'm glad you can relate to the birth order theory (I'm even happier that you and your husband are a "good match" in that regard).

      I wonder how happy marriages factor into the birth order theory. I wonder if two only children or two eldest children are compatibale the same way. Hmmm. Thanks for spawning a thought...

      And thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      This is interesting. I'm a first born and see myself in some of the first born traits you mention. I can be a bit bossy and since my husband is a youngest child he was used to being bossed around, so we are very compatible that way. : )

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey Debbie,

      I reasoned something along those lines but thanks for clarifying! Oh and thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      It has been said that when there is a large age gap (5-6 years) between the youngest and the next-to-youngest sibling, the youngest is more like an only child, and if other siblings come along later, they develop oldest child traits. In other words, as if the birth order starts all over when several years pass.

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey Running,

      When theres a large group of children in a family (in your case 5) I would imagine that the traits are speard out more. There should be a large age difference (unless your Qunituplets of course) between the oldest and the youngest. I would imagine in this regard there is "only child syndrom" around the youngest and possibly the second to youngest as well.

      I think Alfred Adler has some strong points but I think he lacked diversity (IE taking a bigger family into account). I would imagine as the family unit grows the children are forced to take on more responsibility so I could easily see the second and third child sharing some "older" child traits as well.

      Thanks for stopping by!!!

      ~Becky

    • RunningDeer profile image

      RunningDeer 5 years ago from Iowa

      Very interesting! I can see a lot of traits that match my five siblings and me. I am the oldest, and recognize many of those in myself. I'm glad you also included the only child because that was something I have no idea about. Voted up and shared!

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey Debbie,

      Nice to "meet" you here @hubpages. I too think birth order plays an important role in the understanding of one's mind (the way they think or percieve things). Of course Adler and all the rest of the early theorists have strong arguments but I think it's the fine tunning and combination of all the early theorists work that leads to a better understanding of the "total" person. I tend to favor Adler as well as Jung. I think you and I could have some interesting conversations Debbie. Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Great Hub on a topic that I love. When I counsel people I always ask about birth order because it can provide great insight into who the person is and how they view the world. I consider myself an integrative counselor (eclectic used to be the term but is no longer in style), but the longer I counsel, the more I realize that Alfred Adler really knew what he was talking about and his theory embraces almost all other theories. I'm working on learning more about Adlerian therapy.

    • AHA Becky profile image

      AHA Becky 5 years ago

      As many similarities as I found with my father's family, I didn't really see any with my own sibling. I only have an older sister, and to be honest, I fall into more of the first born traits than she does. Haha

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...great response, Becky, but I doubt you are a mess. In my adopted family I had a sister who was eleven years older and was basically gone from the household by the time I was five....so for all conversations about the matter, I was pretty much an only child. Am I a mess? LOL Probably!

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey Billy,

      I was adopted too. I'm not sure about the details behind your adoption but as an adoptee and an adoptive mother I can tell you I still can completely relate to A lot of it. I was also fourtanate enough to meet the bio family later on down the road and found out that in that line-up I would have been the second of 5 children. Although I was not raised as part of a family who had 5 children I still have some characteristics of a middle child. What can I say I'm a mess :).

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      @Becky I find it interesting too.... you noticed the dynmaics in your dads family? What about your own? I would imagine that doing the "research" assocaited with it would have been very interesting!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have no way of relating to this because I'm adopted and don't know my family history...but it is a fascinating read and you did a great job of detailing the birth order subject.

    • AHA Becky profile image

      AHA Becky 5 years ago

      I did a research paper my freshmen year of high school on this topic. It was so interesting! I noticed many of the dynamics in my dad's family (four kids, him the oldest). Great post!

    • Rfordin profile image
      Author

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi First,

      I tend to think it has it's rights as a theory as often many families fall into these dynamics. At the same time I also think many other factors come into play. Like my example of being the "oldest/only" child because of the 6 year age difference. I'm glad you were able to relate it's cool reading things that are so on point when it comes to ourselves. I guess Adler had the right idea with this theory.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Becky

    • First Colony profile image

      First Colony 5 years ago

      This describes my family perfectly. I come from a family of 6, and I am the second born, but since the order was 3 boys and then 3 girls, I am also the middle child of the boys. My older brother is the driven perfectionist, and even though we are all in our 30's and 40's, he still feels the need to tell us what to do and "boss" us around. I often feel that my younger siblings got away with more growing up. I will also say that yes, as the "middle child" (at least of the boys), I tend to be more diplomatic and am usually the one that all siblings talk to when they are having a problem with another sibling. There is so much more, but maybe I've shared too much already!