When we were young, being the oldest meant that we got to stay up later than our siblings, but we also got blamed when they followed us straight into trouble. If you were the youngest, it meant that everyone fawned over you, but it also meant a lot of hand-me-down toys and clothes! However, recent research shows that your place in your family’s birth order may mean more than being the assigned as the babysitter or having to play with big sister’s Barbie; your birth order and personality may be closely linked to each other!
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The study of birth order and personality
The field of the study of the relationship between birth order and personality is relatively new, and there is only a small but growing body of research to rely on. Alfred Adler, a once upon a time Freud student, is considered to be the person who originated this theory. Based on this, a psychologist from the University of Georgia, Alan E. Stewart, studied 529 articles published over 20 years and wrote a comprehensive report on the birth order theory in 2012. Another psychologist, Bernd Carette from the Ghent University, has gone so far as to claim that ‘birth order lies at the heart of people’s goal preferences. This practically means that your birth order decides your destiny!
There is also research data that shows that your birth order has an impact on your relationships, including your choice of partners or friends. Apparently, like attracts like; firstborns tend to get together with other firstborns, lastborns with other lastborns, and so on. If all this sounds rather far-fetched, let’s take a closer look at the various personalities associated with birth order.
First child personality
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The firstborn child is the only one who gets his parents all to himself, with 100% of their love and attention being lavished on them. As a result, they are often closer to their parents, emulating them and ending up as mini versions of their parents. They are also the ones to bear the brunt of parental expectations, and they end up trying to please their parents even in adulthood. 100% of U.S. astronauts in space have been either first children or first sons. More than half of all Nobel Prize winners and US presidents have also been the first child in their families. Fun fact: every actor who has played James Bond is a firstborn!
Here is a look at more traits of a first child personality.
- They are usually quite careful before taking any step, and their decisions are often deliberate and well thought out.
- Being the oldest, they can be quite dominating and have a tendency to take control of the situation at hand.
- Firstborns are perfectionists, and this generally stems from a desire to seek approval.
- They are friendly, but don’t have much of a social circle, preferring to spend their time with family and a few select friends.
- Being the expected ‘fulfiller’ of their parent’s dreams, oldest siblings are often ambitious and usually have well mapped out careers.
- Firstborns are born planners – they’re the ones who make lists and plan everything down to a ‘T’ while the others relax.
- The first child personality prefers careers where they can exhibit their natural leadership skills and where they have the potential to rise high, like information technology, engineering, science or being the CEO of an organization.
First-child celebrities – Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis
Suggested read: 21 life struggles only a firstborn knows to be true
Middle child personality
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One of the chief personality characteristics attributed to a middle child is that they’re competitive – which can’t be helped considering they are born straight into a competitive environment! Right from birth, the middle child has to compete with the older child for their parents’ attention. This often results in the middle child having a pretty large social circle, where they create another ‘family’ of friends. Fun fact: A middle child has a better tendency to save well and they are also more likely to be asked for money by their other siblings. Here are some more markers of a second child personality.
- Middle children keep trying to get ahead of the rest, and they do pretty well on competitive exams.
- The middle child’s social circle isn’t just large; they are also well connected and meet socially on a regular basis.
- Having to contend with an older sibling, middle-borns usually have good negotiating skills.
- They are more flexible and understanding than their older siblings.
- They have a keen sense of justice and fairness, and will try to maintain a fair system wherever they are.
- As opposed to the oldest child, the middle child can possess a rebellious streak, as they’re not as inclined to impress their parents. This usually results in them choosing a career path different from the one chosen by the oldest sibling.
- Common careers that appeal to the middle child personality are entrepreneurship, politics, and law.
Middle child celebrities – Madonna, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bill Gates, Princess Diana
Suggested read: 17 reasons why a brother is a sister’s greatest blessing
Youngest child personality
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By the time the youngest child is born, the parents are experts at the parenting game. They no longer squeal at every smile, nor do they fret at every fall, so from the start, the youngest child has to go out of their way to be in the spotlight. This results in an early need to assert themselves to ensure their voice is heard. They also learn to do things by themselves at an early age. Fun fact: Youngest kids are at a lower risk of diabetes than their siblings, but at a higher risk of obesity. Here are some more aspects of a third child personality.
- All that attention-seeking makes lastborns the life of the party, and they often come across as outgoing and charming.
- Lastborns are generally pleasant and they can easily sweet talk their way out of an unpleasant situation.
- Being the youngest child means that there are more people to take care of you and attend to your needs; this gives them a good sense of security.
- Youngest children are usually free from parental expectations, that burden having fallen on their older siblings. This gives them the space to explore their own dreams.
- Lastborns are more creatively inclined, and not too interested in strictly academic subjects.
- A youngest child is forever the baby of the family and does not have to share with or care for anyone younger. This can make them a little self-centered.
- With older siblings taking on the bulk of responsibility within the home, youngest kids can be hesitant in accepting roles that involve accountability.
- They flourish in careers that aren’t too academic or involve heavy responsibility; preferably in entertainment, art, teaching or sales.
Youngest child celebrities – Mark Twain, Prince Harry, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Angelina Jolie
Suggested read: Your parents have a favorite child, despite what they say
Only child personality
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The only child has a personality that doesn’t include any influence of siblings. Since they grow up in the company of adults, they often end up acting and speaking in a far more mature manner than other kids of the same age with siblings. Only children get their parents’ undivided love and attention, and this lasts forever. Thus in many ways, an only child’s personality is a mix of a first child personality and a youngest child personality, as shown here.
- Even as kids, only children have a better understanding of adult emotions and exhibit more maturity in many situations.
- Not having siblings to lean upon, they are quite independent and end up enjoying doing everything by themselves.
- Only children share a creative bent of mind with youngest children.
- Being left to their own devices, they are quite resourceful and can manage crisis situations well.
- Like the firstborn, the only child is a perfectionist, and can try very hard to get things exactly the way they should be.
- Close contact with adults from an early age can make only children pretty serious souls.
- An advanced vocabulary and constant interaction with adults results in excellent communication skills.
- Only children prefer careers that make the most of their personality traits, like law, information technology, engineering or even entertainment.
Only child celebrities – Elvis Presley, Franklin Roosevelt, Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, Leonardo DiCaprio
While the relationship between birth order and personality traits applies on a general scale, it actually changes with family dynamics and depend upon several other factors. Living in an extended family with cousins changes the equation completely, as does a blended family with step-brothers or step-sisters. Gender is another factor; in a family that already has an older son, a daughter becomes the first female child, and thus exhibits many first child characteristics. The age gap is another important consideration. Birth order experts say that after a gap of five years, a new hierarchy begins. So a boy born in a family that already has a 10 year old boy may exhibit more first child characteristics.
The birth order theory helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses and thus make choices accordingly. That said, there are several other factors that come into play, making the birth order an important, but not conclusive personality characteristic. At the end of the day, you pave your own path and you make your own destiny!
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