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Why is Birth Order Important?

Updated on May 23, 2013

How Much Does Birth Order Matter

Birth order may play an important role in a person's development and personality.
Birth order may play an important role in a person's development and personality. | Source

Birth Order

Birth order, has interested researchers and scientists in the field of psychology for a long time. The order in which you were born may greatly affect you psychologically and impact the very decisions you make for yourself from your career choices to your spouse and everything in between.

Birth order, although controversial to some, defines people through general stereotypes that seem to fit many people and their birth positions.

The theory of birth order was developed by Alfred Adler, a noted psychologist, who came up with many theories which are still applied to the field of psychology today. Although wildly debated, the birth order theory does have value when understanding people’s personalities, and may help explain why children who are raised in the same family, by the same parents have such varied personalities.

According to Adler’s theory, which was developed over a hundred years ago, our birth order has significant influence on some of the characteristics we seem to have. Birth order has been extensively studied. Not all the research backs Some researchers have even linked intelligence with birth order. Another theory called the Fraternal Birth Order Effect says that males who have many older brothers are more likely to be gay. The theory is that each older brother increases the odds of homosexuality by about one third.

Oldest, Middle, Youngest Children

Who we are may be greatly impacted by our birth position.
Who we are may be greatly impacted by our birth position. | Source

Oldest, Middle, Youngest Children

A professor at the University of California, Frank Sulloway, who is an evolutionary psychologist has researched birth order for over 25 years. He believes birht order puts each child in a special niche within the family unit. Each child develops strategies as they try to get and keep the attention of their parents.

Another factor in birth order is the way parents treat their children and this plays a factor in personality development.

Oldest Children and Birth Order

First born tend to be natural leaders, they may be conservative, controlling and bossy. Because they got their parents undivided attention without competition, until the next sibling was born. Some oldest children spend their entire lives trying to regain the attention and approval and love they feel they once had exclusively from their parents.

Some theorists have concluded that first born children may be more hostile towards their siblings, due in large part because of the resentment they feel towards their later born siblings. This also leads to the first born to strive to achieve, be more assertive, extroverted, organized, and responsible. Oldest children may also be more stressed, more neurotic, more serious, and more jealous than their later born counterparts.

Most oldest children are used to being the center of attention, and may also be perfectionists. They pressure themselves to be the best. First born children tend to be smarter and have a higher IQ, (up to 3 points higher) than their younger brothers and sisters. These few points can take a person from the average intelligence range to above average.

Oldest children may be the favorite of the parents.

Oldest children may be self critical, are not usually risk takers, and may be the caretakers of the family. In new research study, which showed that the first born are at greater risk for high blood pressure, the study showed this may actually start in the womb because the placenta, which proved the unborn child with nutrients, may not work as well during the first pregnancy, and may even have adverse effects on the development of the fetus.

In addition, oldest children tend to be more motivated and focused on what they are doing and this can increase their stress levels and drive up their blood pressure. The combination may place the oldest of the family at greater risk for cardiovascular disease as they get older.

Birth Position

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New parents can sometimes create an atmosphere early on where they are channeling their own ambitions more on their first born children than their later born children.

Most astronauts and presidents are the first born of the family.

The meaning of Birth Order

From oldest to youngest, each vies for attention from their parents.
From oldest to youngest, each vies for attention from their parents. | Source

Middle Children and Birth Order

Middle Children - The birth order theory says that middle children are most likely to be best prepared to handle Some middle children may feel like they are ignored by their parents who may be more interested in the first born they have invested their great amount of energy in , or the youngest who is indulged, and babied.

The middle children start off being the youngest, but lose that position upon the birth of the next sibling. Parents are often less strict and less anxious with the second born than with the oldest. Middle children are often good negotiators, diplomatic, and have the ability to make friends easier because they have learned how to get along with older and younger.

Flexibility and being empathetic are often common traits of middle children. They may be good listeners, and people pleasers. Middle children sometimes become secretive, and may feel isolated or different than their older and younger siblings, who to them may seem to hold a more special place in the family than they do. This may cause them to feel lost, or less valued.

It is common for middle children to seek company outside of the home. Middle children are usually very loyal people. They tend to work hard to make themselves stand apart from their older and younger siblings. The more middle children there are, the weaker these traits may tend to show themselves. Recent recent has shown that middle children are most at risk for chronic fatigue syndrome. This research is just preliminary and more studies will prove or disprove this theory.

When the second child is a different gender than the first child, the second child is sometimes treated like a first child because of this. If the oldest child has disabilities of some kind, the middl e child may exhibit more first born qualities. The middle child often chooses activities and interests that vary from their older sibling.

Youngest Children and Birth Order

Youngest children - are often rebellious, may resent authority figures. They tend to be charming, outgoing, persistent, and often the least serious of all the siblings, and may be more spoiled due to the overindulgence from the parents and older siblings.

The youngest often has the least restrictions and demands put upon them. This may cause the youngest to have the less self control, and strive less. The youngest tend to seek attention from having to compete with older siblings.

The last born may be less responsible and may not be decisive people. Youngest children tend to be the most individualistic in the family. They may be more playful and use humor as a way of getting attention. Many actors and comedians are the last born of the family.

Youngest tend to be more risk takers, in large part because they may have been more coddled as they grew up. This over protection may make them feel less destructible or it may be a way to rebel against being held too close. Youngest of the family may have a lot of confidence because they had to be bold in order to get their parents attention. Being creative and good problem solvers is a common characteristics among the youngest..

Many alcoholics tend to be the youngest of the family and tend to be at the greatest risk of other addictive behavior including compulsive eating, gambling, and other substance abuse.

Birth Order Traits

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Only Children and Birth Order

Only children - Approximately 20% of children are only children. Only children share many of the same characteristics of oldest children. or the qualities of the same gender parent . There are two basic types of only children. The very confident and assertive child is acts more mature than their years and the child who has difficulty socializing with other children.

Only children grow up faster than children in a household with children. They tend to identify strongly with their parents. Because they don’t have to compete with other kids ,for attention they may expect others to treat them similarily, and may be more self focused.

Only children may show signs of being a perfectionist. They may not have learned how to negotiate or share with others because they have never had to share anything of their own. Only children tend to have more self confidence, are articulate, and imaginative. They may tend to disdain criticism. They also may prefer the company of adults. Only children may also be at greater risk of obesity, which some researchers believe may come from caretakers using food to show love.

Birth order is an important aspect in understanding people’s personalities, and as some new research is showing, even certain health issues. The experience of having brothers and sisters, or not having them shapes us all. Siblings are always competitive, as each of them vie for the attention of their parents. Children pay close attention to who has their parent’s focus. The relationship we have with our children prepare us for the various relationships we have as adults.

The Birth Order Theory

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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Flourish, Your observations about mates and birth order is absolutely on target. It is very interesting and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Interesting hub. I also find compelling people's choice in mates -- whether first borns choose last borns, for instance. I am a first born and my husband is a last born, and our qualities complement each other well. I'm bossy and he is easy going. My sister, a last born, married a last born and they are so easy going that both of them are reluctant to take leadership with finances, cooking, the kids, etc. Anything goes.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Karen, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am glad you learned something from reading my hub, and I am really glad you liked my polls. I try to make them fun.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Very interesting information presented here. I am a firstborn but really only knew about firstborn traits, not the traits of later siblings. I liked your polls. They were fun to participate in. Voted up.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Kidscrafts, I am glad you found this article interesting. I think birth order has a lot of relevance. I always appreciate you leaving your kind comments, and thanks so much for sharing my hub.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      5 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Very interesting article! I've read things about this theory but I never heard about the fact that the gender might change things with the two first born as well if the oldest has disabilities.

      Thanks for sharing!


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