Birth Order and its Effects on Personality

Birth Order and its effects on personality

You would have often heard or felt that the oldest child is often described as more responsible and mature than the youngest or the only children. This is definitely true! Each birth order shapes a different personality.

By the early 90s researchers began to believe that the order in which the children are born can have a significant effect on their personality. 

By the end of the article, you will be able to discuss birth order and its effects on personality development from oldest child to the youngest and only child.


Why is birth order important?


According to Alfred Adler, an Austrian Psychotherapist, the order in which children are born can influence their level of motivation, social skills, their creativeness, imagination and their willingness to take risks. 

Birth order also impacts the way the parents interact with their children, which in turn shape the child’s personality. 

To better understand we can look at an example:

The firstborn are always expected to achieve high, to be mature and be responsible so that they can look after their younger siblings, which then lead them developing leadership traits. Whereas, the last born children or the only child have more freedom and space to try new things. This is a major reason why last-born are likely to be more creative, social and risk-taking and are more popular among peers.

Birth order also impacts a child’s relationship with their family members, friends, work colleagues etc. 

Now that we know the link between birth order and personality, let’s look at the traits that each category possesses.


Birth Order and its effect on personality – Specific traits:

First born: 

They are perfectionists! The oldest child is often responsible, highly organized and self-disciplined as compared to their younger siblings. They are more mature, understanding, reliable, and often controlling as well. 

There are a few reasons that promote this trait.

Firstly, they are given more responsibilities at an early age, like looking after younger siblings when parents are not at home.

Secondly, another reason for this personality trait is the “resource dilution” hypothesis. This hypnosis states that as the size of the family increases, the resources available for each member of the family decreases. Here, when talking about resources we are talking about materialistic things, parents time, effort and attention. 

Last but not the least, another explanation for the trait “perfectionist” is that the oldest child always receives more time and attention from their parents, where parents have more time and energy for them. As the family size increases, and more children are added to the family, parent’s time and resources get divided. This leads to differences in the amount of attention given to each child. This then creates differences in sibling’s personality and can lead to sibling rivalry.


Middle Child:


Middle children are often very compromising, and people pleasers, peacemakers.

One of the reasons for these personality traits is their “squeezed position in the family”. The oldest being the oldest child was given more attention as compared to the middle child, and the youngest always had the attention of their parents and older siblings. Whereas the middle one’s are often overlooked. As a result of which they start gaining attention by pleasing others and maintaining harmony in the family.

But they are great at social settings!


The baby of the family:


The youngest are outgoing, social and very creative.

This is because the last born receives the least amount of pressure from their parents, and they have more time to explore and avail the opportunities which could have not been possible for their older siblings.

They are “the baby of the family” because they are the last-born or last addition to the family. The youngest child holds a strong and special position in the family, due the way they are treated by their parents and older siblings. 

Are they rebellious? It is not necessarily true. However, some may exhibit rebellious behavior as a way of stressing their individuality, particularly when they feel that they are being dominated by their older siblings.

They are very charming. As they are the baby of the family with the least sense of responsibility, they had the opportunity to see and learn from their older siblings, and explore new things. This makes them creative and allow them to develop new skills. The extra attention and care can boost their sense of confidence in social situations, where they feel more secure in their relationships with others.

Only child:

One of the prominent personality traits of the only child is that “they have difficulty sharing attentions and belongings”. They are often independent, responsible, and mature. 

Let me explain why! Because only children are individuals who grow up without siblings, they have their parent’s undivided attention. They had no siblings to share their parent time and their resources. Therefore they are not good at sharing and compromising. As a result, they are more comfortable having things to themselves. They have a great sense of ownership over their belongings.

This is also the reason that they struggle with social skills and making friends.

One common stereotype about the only child is that they are spoiled. This is not always accurate. They may be the only one to receive their parents’ attention and care, but also may feel pressure to succeed in their life. 


SIBLING RIVALRY: How does sibling rivalry affect a child?

When a child fights for the attention of their parents, resources, and belongings with their other siblings this can lead to emotions like jealousy, insecurity, betrayal, and much more. And in turn lead to sibling rivalry.

Having sibling rivalry do affect their personality. Sibling rivalry effect a child’s emotions, self-esteem, confidence, and even their perception about world and other people. It can also affect their social skills and mental health. 

Sibling rivalry can look like calling names, hitting each other, pulling hairs, bickering, verbal fights, etc

But what are the causes of sibling rivalry?

Out of many reasons that can lead to sibling’s rivalry, here are a few of them:

  1. Competition: having competition with other siblings for limited resources, like toys, attention from parents, etc. This can then lead to the feelings of jealousy.
  2. Individual differences: the more the two siblings have different moods or character, the more they will fight. For example, if one is laid back and loves his personal space and the other one is social, they may easy fall into a fight. 
  3. Parent’s role: few of the parents unintentionally habits or behaviors can lead to sibling rivalry. The behaviors such as comparing your children to each other, showing favoritism, and being too busy, can create emotions like neglect, jealousy, competition, and resentment in children.

Let’s Recap

Now that we know about the birth order and its effects on personality development, we can say that one’s position within their family can influence their personality development. But it is just one of many factors that play a role in a child’s personality development. Other factors like life experience, genetics, society, social environment, and social media also play a vital role. 


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