Research indicates that birth order in a family affects the way we’re treated and raised. For example, typically the eldest child is seen as being “the big boy or girl” who is frequently expected to help with caring for their younger siblings. In contrast, the youngest child is treated as “the baby of the family”. They are often indulged, and much less is demanded or expected, of them. In fact, the psychologist Alfred Adler showed that, in many cases, birth order personality traits are firmly ingrained by the time a child is age two. Based on his research, he hypothesized that there are three main personality types, related to birth order in a family. These are (i) only child or first born, (ii) middle child, and (iii) later born or youngest children.
1. Only child/first born: This child (and later adult) is usually an organized, researched thinker. Because they have high expectations placed upon them, they tend to be pleasers who are disciplined, hard working and independent. They are conscientious, do well in school, tend to succeed and have high paying jobs – which are often in a more conservative field. They are serious minded, reliable, they like to play by the rules, are self-critical. They are more anxious than later born children, have perfectionist tendencies, demonstrate perseverance, have stickability, are strong-willed, determined, focused, moralistic and have a tendency to be controlling.
Famous first borns include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Winston Churchill, Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin and Mussolini.
2. Middle children: These children are caring, understanding, good listeners, good mediators and peace keepers, and are generally very diplomatic. They are flexible and adaptable, supportive and giving, are sociable and tend to have lots of friends. However, they can also be manipulative. They tend to give up their rights more easily than first or last born children, and expect others to be given preference over them. This can result in them feeling insignificant, and ending up with a chip on their shoulder.
Famous middle children include: George Washington, Richard Nixon, Jack Kennedy, George Bush and Tony Blair.
3. Later born or youngest children: Later born children have always had a sibling they had to compete against. As a result, they have had to fight to find their own special niche within the pack. This often leads to them being more creative and original than earlier born children. Many play the role of the family clown, and are charming and entertaining exhibitionists. Also, in most cases their parents have been more relaxed and lenient with later born child so they “get away with more” – and tend to expect special privileges, to be noticed, to be more rebellious, and less concerned about the rules. They are generally pleasant, happy and easy going individuals. Many fail to reach their academic potential as they don’t have the drive and pressure associated with being a first born or only child.
Famous later borns include Charles Darwin, Gandhi, Leon Trotsky and Charlie Chaplin.