Are all first-borns bossy and conservative? Are middle children natural peace makers? Are younger children rebellious?
Birth-order theory was all the rage for several years. According to its believers, your birth order determined your personality. Today, psychologists realize the birth order is simply one variable that affects, but doesn’t determine, what you’re like.
Other Factors Affect Personality, Too
Genetics play a large role in determining our outlook on life and therefore our actions. Some people seem to be born with a higher happiness set point and are more resilient to life’s setbacks. Others seem inherently shy. Still others are risk takers.
Add in education, social and economic environment, family dynamics and all the other factors that play a role in our lives, and you can see that birth order becomes simply one more aspect.
Birth Order and Personality Traits
But before you dismiss birth order, take a look at some of the general personality characteristics for each main category. Then examine yourself, your siblings and friends, and see how well any of you fit into these slots.
Because the first born gets to be the only child in the family until siblings are born, they spend a lot of one-on-one time with their parents. That’s great for attention, but that attention can also be negative. New parents have high expectations for their first borns which can stifle creativity. On the other hand, first borns do lead their siblings in terms of level of education, occupational prestige, income and net worth. These guys are high achievers. In fact, more than half of all Nobel Prize winners and U.S. presidents fall in this category.
Common traits for first borns are:
- Need for achievement and status
- Tendency to stick to the rules
- Conservative outlook
- Strong sense of responsibility
- Fond of giving advice, even if unsolicited
- Well-developed sense of self confidence
- Can also be anxious, aggressive and intolerant
Well-known first borns:This category is overpopulated by politicians such as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton and macho actors including Clint Eastwood Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Sean Connery. Don’t forget Oprah and J.K. Rowling.
Because they’re born into an already-made family, they’re used to sharing rather than expect to get everything first. With less parental spotlight shone on them, they can be more relaxed than their first-born siblings. However, being caught in the middle can also make them very sensitive to any forms of injustice.
Common traits for middle children are:
- Tendency to be good-natured, kind, compassionate and empathetic
- Strong listening skills
- Have a well-developed sense of justice
- Willing to compromise
- Play the diplomat in the family
- More willing to take risks
- Can sometimes feel lonely and left out in the shuffle of other siblings
Well-known middle children: This category is more of a mixed bag and you’ll find Bill Gates, J.F.K., Madonna and Princess Diana.
Last borns (the baby in the family):
By the time last borns come along, parents are generally more relaxed about rules and regulations. Last borns, who can be charming and self-centered, are quick to take advantage of that freedom.
Common traits for last-born children are:
- Tendency to be a little more rebellious than accept the status quo
- More likely to take risks
- Less authoritarian
- Often agreeable and affectionate
- Can also be manipulators, showoffs and less likely to accept blame
Well-known last borns: Here you’ll find journalists, artists and actors, particularly comedians, including Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey, Drew Carey, Rosie O’Donnell, Eddie Murphy, Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal.