You must have heard from someone that the oldest kid in a family tends to be very responsible, while children who have no siblings are far more likely to be selfish and demanding. Are these merely stereotypes, or is it really true that our birth order can shape our personality?
The birth order theory began in the late 1920s with Alfred Adler, Sigmund Freud’s friend and colleague. Adler believed that the order in which you are born into a family inherently affects your personality.
- The first-born (oldest) child. According to Adler, the oldest child tends to be conservative, power-oriented, and predisposed toward leadership. Because they often take responsibility for their younger siblings, firstborns grow up to be caring, more willing to become parents, and more likely to take initiative.
- The second (middle) child. Since the older brother or sister is a “pace-setter” for the second child, they often struggle to surpass their older sibling. The pace of development is higher. The middle kids in a family often tend to be ambitious, but they are rarely selfish. They are also more likely to set unreasonably high goals for themselves. This increases the number of failures, however knowing how to cope with difficulties in life is what makes them stronger.
- The last-born (youngest) child. As a rule, the youngest child gets a lot of care and attention from parents and even older siblings. That is why they may feel less experienced and independent. However, last-borns are usually highly motivated to surpass their older sisters and brothers. Very often they achieve a big success and earn recognition in their chosen field. They become the fastest athletes, the best musicians, or the most talented artists. The youngest children in a family tend to be very sociable, though they are likely to be more irresponsible and frivolous than older children.
- The only child. Without any siblings to compete with, the only child often competes with his or her father. Being overly pampered by their parents, the single kid expects pampering and protection from all others too. Dependency and self-centeredness are the leading qualities of this style of life. The only child often has difficulty interacting with peers. Many children who have no siblings become perfectionists, and they tend to achieve their goals no matter what.
How does it affect IQ scores?
The theory saying that the order in which you and your siblings are born has an impact on your personality and IQ level has become very popular recently. However, it has also created quite a divide among researchers. Some dismiss the theory entirely, while others are convinced it plays a crucial role. Researchers from the University of Leipzig and Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (both in Germany) studied more than 20,000 adults from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. In this study, they compared siblings within families and the order of their birth.
They found that older children generally show higher performance on intelligence tests. However, the scientists found no birth-order effects on emotional stability and imagination.
How does it affect one’s personality?
Another study provided more evidence that birth order affects one’s personality. The researchers analyzed personality traits of 377,000 high school students in the USA.
What they found is that firstborns generally tend to be more honest and dominant. However, they are also less sociable and less resistant to stress. Middle children tend to be more conscientious and diligent. The youngest child in a family is more likely to be open and sociable. Kids who have no siblings are often nervous, but they are also quite outgoing and social.
Is birth order really so important?
But you have to admit that the results of these studies have a number of inaccuracies. The research does not take into account such important social factors as ethnicity, education, parents’ welfare, and relationships within a family. While birth order may have a certain impact on one’s personality or intelligence, we shouldn’t forget that parent-child relationships and the upbringing that children receive in their homes are much more important factors in shaping their lives as individuals.