Have you ever heard the opinion that older children are “more mature” than their siblings? Or maybe you’ve heard that middle children are more “neutral” and laid back. Believe it or not, your birth order may influence your personality and can be tied back to some of your character traits. It may even impact how you handle social situations — as an introvert or an extrovert. How is this possible? Many psychologists believe that depending on where you fall in the family structure, you may have to develop different strategies or tactics to gain your parents’ attention or favor. Additionally, parenting techniques may differ with each child. For example, new parents are often much more cautious than seasoned ones with multiple children.
Do the traits ascribed to your birth order really match your true personality? In fact, understanding your personality traits can help with your overall health and wellness. When you understand your unique personality, you can identify and prioritize the right self-care techniques for a healthy lifestyle. In addition, consider earning your psychology degree online from JWU to learn more about different personality traits.
Oldest Child – “The Achiever”
The oldest child is the only child in the family that will completely have their parents to themselves; the firstborn often reaps many emotional benefits from this experience and emerges with a sense of security and self-confidence. Due to the nature of first-time parenting, many often employ stricter rules, high levels of attention, and trial-and-error. As a result, firstborn children tend to be responsible, well-behaved, and possess strong leadership qualities.
The oldest children are often held to a higher standard than the later-borns. They are the first of everything, and their parents are going through it for the first time, too. First-time parents are often overly concerned that their baby might get a bump or a bruise, or worse. This can cause the parents to be stricter with their oldest than they are with their youngest. First-time parents often have quite high expectations for their firstborn and want them to be successful. Because they want what is best for them, they often micromanage them. Parents seem to be more relaxed when it comes to younger siblings. Oldest children, on the other hand, tend to act like a second parent to their younger sibling, causing them to become protective and responsible in nature.
The Middle Child – “Switzerland”
After the firstborn, parents tend to relax their parenting styles. They may not be as strict as they were with a firstborn and now have experience with parenting. Middle children tend to be very good at cooperation, compromise, and negotiation, as they learn how to behave with their parents and older sibling. They may also not receive as much attention within the family dynamics, so they develop small but strong relationships with a circle of friends. Middle children may feel jealous that their older sibling is accomplishing things first; such as the attention received around the first journey to middle or high school, college, or life thereafter. Although, when they are younger, middle children advance quicker because they observe and learn from their older sibling. They often walk or read sooner than their older sibling did.
Middle children are loyal and faithful in their relationships and are good at relating to a variety of people, both older and younger. They tend to be the family peacekeeper—understanding, cooperative, agreeable, loyal, and flexible, yet competitive. They also try to keep the family dynamics in balance. One parent may help the older child with their homework, while the other parent helps the younger child with the nighttime routine. The middle child may feel they have to compete for their parent’s attention. They often create their own niche, something unique to excel at that is different from their siblings.
The Youngest Child – “The Baby”
The youngest children tend to have more freedom and are often the most independent. Parents are often more lenient with their youngest; they tend to be less cautious as they have more parenting experience. Just as with the oldest sibling, the youngest child often feels special and has a unique place in the family. They tend to be more rebellious and attention-seeking, creative, social, outgoing, and have a sense of openness.
The Only Child – “The King of the Castle”
Only children tend to be more mature than those who have siblings. Only children are typically surrounded by adults, so they tend to be independent, confident, and intelligent. They have a lot in common with firstborn children, although they often are more creative yet less agreeable than those with siblings are.
Personality Isn’t Always Clear-Cut
Do you feel like these descriptions don’t exactly describe your personality? You are not alone. In fact, Alfred Adler, the first researcher to identify the significance of birth order (birth order theory), and his successors also talked about the concept of psychological birth order. They said it is not just the number (where you are in the numerical birth order) that matters but also the way that the child interprets it. In fact, it is believed that it is possible to identify with more than one birth order category, after all every firstborn child has been the oldest at one point, and middle children were once the youngest. The gap in years between children can also have an impact! Many experts agree that five or more years between kids act as a reset button. What about twins? Experts say that these rules don’t apply as twins get a special focus from parents.
Think of this as a fun exercise! Just as it is with any experience that you go through in life, it is your interpretation of how you experience things that matter. If you were a middle child and you felt that you had your parents’ undivided attention and never had to compete with your siblings, then that was your experience and that is great! Learning more about birth order and how it can affect personality traits can be helpful for parents to see how they may, unknowingly, be influencing their children. As an adult, it is also interesting to learn more about where some of your personality traits might stem from and could be helpful with your mental health!
Ready to learn more about psychology? Earn your bachelor’s degree in psychology online with Johnson & Wales University! For more information, complete the Request Info form, email [email protected], or call 855-JWU-1881.