Birth Order


Thought for the week:   Birth Order 

Your personal characteristics are a function of many things;  genes, environment, parenting, social culture and birth order, to name a few.  Some believe that birth order plays a large role in the adult you have become.  Your birth order can unconsciously influence who you marry as well as the choices you make in your career.  When reading the characteristics below, remember that birth order traits are impacted by the overall size of a family as well as by the number of years between siblings.  In addition, divorce, untimely deaths and blended family situations will change the nuances of each position’s traits.

First Borns:  New parents are generally more nervous and more attentive as they navigate the major life transition of parenthood.  This ‘by the book’ cautious approach translates into the first born potentially becoming perfectionistic, reliable, and high achieving in order to please the parents and meet the expectations and values of the family.  They are often more mature, at times preferring the company of adults.  While many factors contribute to our mental health, the child born first in the family may fall under the pressure of family expectations, leaving first born tasks to the second child.  

Second Child:  With the second child as parents have relaxed a bit as they rely on the knowledge and experience gained from raising the first child.  They will inherently be less attentive with two children to care for.  The decreased attention the second born receives lends itself to this child being more of a people pleaser.  The second child will more likely look outside the family to peers to have attention needs met.

 If the first born has met the expectation needs of the family, the second born will display a decrease in perfectionism characteristics.  It is more like a second born to be rebellious towards parent rules or academic expectations.  While first borns may enjoy the company of adults more & thrive on fewer close relationships, second borns tend to have a larger social network.  Some believe the second born carries the hidden emotional issues in the family as often they are playing the role of peacemaker.

Third Borns:  Character traits depend on if the third is also the youngest child.  The baby in the family tends to be more free spirited and uncomplicated as the rules of parenting have become even more relaxed.    With even less focus on the last born, the acting out behaviors of this child will most likely be self centered, spontaneous, manipulative and/or attention seeking in nature.  

In larger families where the third is not the last, this child will be more in tune with the health of relationships than first and second borns, although they may not show it.  Specifically, the third child carries hidden pressures/expectations associated with the health of the marital relationship. 

Fourth Borns:  Some theorize that the fourth born holds unresolved family tensions in larger families.  They often feel conflicted; responsible for what is going on without the power to change it.  They can display acting out behaviors to distract the family from its internal distress.  Sometimes they will become the “black sheep” of the family, the one with a problem that requires the family to unite and mobilize in order to take care of them.  However, fourth borns in the last born position will respond to that position’s nuances.  

Only Children:  An only child will likely carry all of the family processes; the expectations, the values and the health of relationships.  While first borns more likely identify/react with the father and second borns with the mother, only children will identify/react with both parents.  (identify = making decisions and holding values relating to that parent).  With this load, only children tend to be more mature, more reliable and diligent.  Having no siblings to measure up to or compete with, only children potentially have a plethora of attention and parental resources at their fingertips well beyond childhood.  They do well in leadership positions.

Having re-read what I’ve written, it nearly sounds like astrology!  In fact, birth order is controversial in psychology because there are too many variables to control to meet research standards.  However, studied since the 1800’s, birth order remains a factor to consider when examining the influences in our growth and development, as it offers additional context to our complex human nature.