Birth order linked to personality differences

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By Stephanie Pineda

Steven Flores, Div. 372, constantly strives to be the opposite of his older sister Michelle Flores, Div. 055. While Michelle is very academically focused and works hard to maintain a high GPA, Steven is more laid back and prefers sports and extracurricular activities over academics.

According to Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist, who was one of the first theorists to suggest that birth order influences personality, being the youngest, Steven is attempting to make himself independent of his older sister and find his own niche in his family.

Adler argued that birth order can leave a permanent impression on an individual’s style of life, which is the habitual way through which individuals deal with the tasks of friendship, love, and work.

In the birth order theory, there are five different birth orders that can determine a person’s personality: only child, firstborn, second-born, middle child, and lastborn.

“If you’re born first, and a sibling isn’t born [closely] afterward, it can affect how spoiled you are,” said Nathan Tisdale-Dollah, Div. 356, the oldest child in his family.

According to Adler, firstborns are “dethroned” when a second child comes along, leaving a lasting influence on them. The youngest or only child is usually pampered and spoiled, which also greatly influences their later personalities.

The general classifications of birth order, as expressed by Adler, describe the only child as always being the center of attention. An only child is never “dethroned,” and thus can be spoiled and self-centered. They may find it hard to share or compromise for lack of social skills learned through sibling interaction. However, they can be very intellectually mature.

Firstborns are described as often being responsible for younger siblings and taking roles of surrogate parents. These roles help firstborns accept their leadership position and the power that sometimes comes with it.

“The older the child is, the [bossier they are] and the more he or she thinks they are better than the younger kids,” said Steven, who often bosses his younger brother around, and who is bossed around by his older sisters. “[Michelle] makes me do her chores all the time.”

According to Adler, second-borns are independent and competitive, especially with the oldest sibling. They tend to rebel if they feel they are not getting equal treatment to that of the first born. Second-borns can also be very expressive and creative. Michelle admits this is true by being competitive with her own older sister.

“In some ways I try to be like [my older sister], but most of the time I try to be better than her,” she said.

The middle child, as described by Adler, is independent, but unlike the second born can be friendlier. They do not have the spotlight nor do they seek it, and they are often resigned in their position in the family despite feeling forgotten. In some cases, the middle child syndrome can develop, particularly in larger families. This proves true in Michelle’s case.

“Being the middle child pushes me to want to do everything opposite [to what] my older sister did,” said Michelle. “She stayed here for college, and I want to go away. I also think I try harder than my siblings because I feel like I am not seen enough.”

Adler describes lastborns as frequently spoiled by everyone. They, too, are never “dethroned,” and may become accustomed to always getting their way. They are often irresponsible and rule breakers, but they can be very charming and adventurous.

“In my family’s case, my older sister is a lot shyer and quieter than my younger sister,” said Nelida Garcia, Div. 031, second born in her family. “My younger sister is more outgoing and daring, and this is probably due to the fact that she was the ‘baby of the house’ [at] one point in her life, and that gave her courage and strength.”

“The youngest [children] are spoiled because they know they’re the little ones and can get away with anything,” said Carina Casadero, Div. 361, the oldest in her family. “They [also] tend to be more jealous.”

According to birthorderandpersonality.com, a website dedicated to discussing the effects of birth order on personality, firstborns usually have the most attention directed toward them, thus affecting the way they turn out.

“The older child, being the oldest, has no example to follow,” said Garcia. “Oftentimes, the older children are the ones that make mistakes; these mistakes are later avoided by the younger siblings.”

“The older child has more pressure than the younger one because they are the first ones to do everything,” said Steven. “They are the pioneers, so to speak.”

“Usually, the older [children] are the meanest….When they’re only children, they get more stuff, and when other kids come they get less and less, and they get mad that they have to share,” said Giovanni Palacios, Div. 359, the youngest in his family.

Birthorderandpersonality.com also says that parents will sometimes treat their children differently without realizing it and consequently will impact their children’s future personalities.

“Parents expect a lot more from the older child. The older children are the ones that are supposed to ‘set the example’,” said Garcia. “If the [youngest and oldest child] are caught misbehaving, the older one gets blamed for the younger sibling’s behavior. According to my parents, if the eldest sister [had been] behaving, the younger ones would have followed [suit].”

The influence of birth order on personality has become a controversial issue in psychology since Adler’s time. Although, the general public widely believes birth order has a direct influence on a person’s personality, many psychologists dispute this. These psychologists believe that there are additional birth order factors that should be considered when determining the influence of birth order on personality. These include the spacing in years between siblings, the total number of children, and the changing circumstances of parents over time because despite the order in which children are born, these factors can also influence their personality.

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