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Being the Oldest Child

Updated on October 23, 2012
Winston Churchill was a first born child, the eldest of two brothers.
Winston Churchill was a first born child, the eldest of two brothers.

This is the third in a series of articles I have written on birth order and how it can affect peoples’ lives, both as children and as adults. People who are born oldest, in the middle, and youngest all have certain images and stereotypes associated with them. In many cases, the conventional wisdom regarding birth order may not be accurate, but in other situations it may hit the mark.

After interviewing my sister (the middle child) and my brother (the youngest child), I am now going to interview myself – yes, myself - about being an oldest child. This should be interesting.

The Interview

Did you have feelings of jealousy or insecurity when your younger siblings were born? If so, what strategies did you use to receive attention?

Well, I have no memory of this, since I was only two, but I reportedly had quite a difficult time adjusting when my sister was born. My parents bought me a Big Wheel tricycle as a present, and I allegedly ran over my sister’s fingers with it. I seem to have had an easier time when my brother was born a couple of years later. However, I still hadn’t gotten used to having Cate around. I reportedly asked my parents if my sister could be returned to the hospital after my brother was born!

How do you think your life would have been different if you had been a middle child?

I would probably have had many of the same issues my sister did, although being a guy would probably have helped in some regard. My sister was not only the middle child, but the first (and only) daughter of the family. This led to the usual increased amount of protectiveness and scrutiny.

However, the oldest child also has to deal with an even more significant amount of scrutiny from his or her parents. When they have their first child, parents often have an idealistic, strict attitude toward parenting. We become experimental guinea pigs, which leads to benefits for the younger children later on.

Both middle and youngest children have a blueprint to follow. They can use the oldest child to learn what to do (or not to do, as may often be the case). The oldest child has no one to emulate and must blaze his or her own trail.

How do you think your life would have been different if you had been the youngest child?

I would definitely have been able to take advantage of laxer rules. However, I also would have been teased more. Every birth order has its advantages and disadvantages.

What advantages does being the oldest child have?

Being the oldest child can teach you a fair amount about responsibility, caution and conscientiousness.

What disadvantages does being the oldest child have?

Like I wrote before, the oldest kid inevitably receives the strictest parenting. Parents usually relax with the younger siblings, especially the youngest.

Do you feel that you lacked a sense of identity?

No, actually this could be considered one of the perks. The oldest child is probably the only one who DOESN’T have this issue. We have a very lucid conception of our place in the family.

Oldest children are sometimes stereotypically known for being cautious, careful, and exhibiting perfectionist qualities. Do you think that you fit any of these attributes?

I think I am a relatively cautious person. I do not usually consider myself a perfectionist, but I can be very nitpicky about my writing. I will often repeatedly read through and edit articles like this, trying to get every word just right.

Other stereotypes of oldest children are that they are bossy, snobby, and solitary. Do you feel that you have any of these attributes?

Bossy and snobby? I probably was sometimes as a kid. I don’t think I typically am now. Solitary? Yes. I spent many hours in my room by myself, in my own little world, as a kid.

Famous oldest children include Reese Witherspoon, Harrison Ford, Walter Cronkite, and Winston Churchill. Which one of them do you think you are most like (if any)? Which one of them would you like to be (if any)?

I don’t think I am very much like any of them, but if I have to choose, I will go with Walter Cronkite. Both of us have a strong interest in political/historical issues. As for whom I’d like to be, I'll go with Winston Churchill.

Overall, how do you think being the oldest child has affected your life?

Like my brother said, your birth order shapes your familial relationships, as well as other relationships that you have. Being an oldest child is a significant part of my identity.

Top of the Totem Pole

Are you an eldest child? How do you think it has affected your life? Leave a comment if you wish.


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    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thank you for the comments! Good insights!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      This is a great hub. The oldest child is the standard bearer for the younger siblings. He/she is expected to be the tough and strong one. He/she is held to a higher and tougher standard than the younger siblings in the family. He/she is often expected to be adultlike earlier.

      Oldest children because they are dethroned oftentimes feel abandoned by their parents. They sublimate this feeling into being the perfect child and the overachiever in order to get parental attention and love. The oldest child is often the toughest of all birth orders. He/she must be there for parents and siblings 24/7/365.

      I was not the oldest child but my mother was. She was always the responsible one for her numerous siblings. Even in adulthood, she took the weight for them. The life of the oldest child is not easy whatsoever. Many oldest children are what one would call overburdened.

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks for the comment, Sueswan! Yes, I think it's easier to get along with siblings as adults.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 5 years ago

      Hi nanderson500

      I am the oldest child. I can relate to being cautious and careful but I wouldn't call my self a perfectionist.

      I was not jealous when my sister came along. We are only a year apart. She was jealous of me. I still can remember her pulling me off my mother's lap as a very young child. We get along famously now. :)

      Voted up and awesome

      Take care

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks, shiningirisheyes. I agree.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Good review on the oldest child. I enjoy your funny take on it as well. I do thing the oldest child has it the toughest. Parents are just learning and tend to expect a bit more from this position in the family. The children who follow after have it a bit easier after much trial and error of the oldest child.