How the birth order affects our personality

How the birth order affects our personality

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Personality according to birth order

Apparently, the order of birth can affect our personality, behavior and worldview, according to experts.


  • 1 The influence of the birth order
  • 2 The firstborn
  • 3 The second or medium
  • 4 The last or small
  • 5 The only child
  • 6 Studies conducted

The influence of the birth order

Our position in the family according to birth order It is considered by some researchers and psychologists as one of the most powerful influences on personality, along with genetics, gender, temperament and parenting styles.

Surely on more than one occasion you will have heard that the eldest son tends to be more responsible, while children who do not have siblings are much more likely to be selfish and demanding. Are these characteristics stereotypes, or is it really true that our birth order can shape our personality?

The theory of the influence of the order of birth on human behavior first appeared in the late twenties by the hand of the psychologist Alfred Adler, friend and colleague of Sigmund Freud. Adler believed that the order in which we are born within the family intrinsically affects our personality. Subsequently, other theorists such as Frank Sulloway and Delroy Paulhus also wrote on this subject.

Below we explain how the different types of personality would be according to the order of birth.

The firstborn

According to Adler, the older child tends to be conservative, oriented to triumph and predisposed towards leadership. Because they usually take responsibility for their younger siblings, the firstborn grow up to be affectionate, more willing to become parents and more likely to take the initiative.

Firstborn children enjoy the presence of their parents alone, a privilege that other siblings will not possess, which may explain why they sometimes act as mini-adults. The firstborn are usually diligent and want to be the best in everything they do. They stand out when it comes to winning the hearts of their elders.

No wonder older children have more things in common with other older children than with their own siblings. His parents were able to turn all their attention to them while there were no more children, so they tend to be much more careful, balanced and responsible than their siblings. They are like a kind of projection from his parents.

The problem of older siblings appears when a younger brother arrives in the family, since they can suffer from the "dethroned king" syndrome, losing their special position of being the only child in the house. The attention of their parents, which was once only for them, must now be shared with their brother or sister. This feeling of loss can lead to a certain propensity to present a somewhat melancholic character.

As a group leader, firstborn often tend to be:

  • Trustworthy
  • Conscientious
  • Insurance
  • Structured
  • Cautious
  • Controllers
  • Responsible
  • They know how to behave

The second or medium

Since the older brother or sister is a "role model", often medium or second children strive to overcome him in some way. Its pace of development is faster. Middle children in a family they tend to be ambitious, but they are rarely selfish. They are also more likely to set excessively high goals for themselves. This increases the number of failures, however They know how to deal with difficulties in life, and that is what makes them stronger.

On the other hand, middle children feel that they do not receive the necessary amount of attention from their parents, so they try to compensate for this deficit by making stronger bonds with their friends.

It is for this reason that medium children They are characterized by having a very faithful and close circle of friends, which they feel as if they were part of their own family. Within this group of friends, the medium tries to capture the attention he does not always feel from his family.

In general, medium siblings tend to have the following characteristics:

  • Complacent
  • Somewhat rebellious
  • They feed on their friendships
  • They have a great social circle
  • Pacifiers
  • Cooperatives
  • Flexible
  • Comprehensive
  • They have trouble setting limits

The last or small

In general, the youngest child receives much care and attention from both parents and older siblings. That is why they may seem the most spoiled. However, the last born they are usually very motivated to overcome their older brothers.

They often achieve great success and gain recognition in the field they choose. They become the fastest athletes, the best musicians or the most talented artists. Younger children in a family tend to be very sociable, although they are likely to be more irresponsible and frivolous than older.

The little ones tend to be the most spirit-free due to the increasingly laissez-faire attitude of their parents towards raising the second (third, fourth, fifth ...) son. Here parents already have a lot of experience and confidence in exercising their role, so they tend to be less demanding and appear much more relaxed, they are no longer alarmed by unnecessary things as they did with the eldest son. For this reason, third children (or more) are much freer, and having fewer responsibilities (no more little siblings to look after) tend to generate a more creative and relaxed lifestyle.

Thus, the fact that the parents, due to lack of time or experience, are not so aware of the actions of the child, makes him enjoy more freedom than his siblings, so he usually develops a more independent personality. But on the other hand, this brother tries to constantly attract attention through a sympathetic and charismatic personality. Nor is it strange that they are the class clowns and the soul of the parties. They are cheerful and outgoing children, but they tend to get bored easily and are very afraid of rejection, as well as a low attention span. Consequently, those born last are usually very good manipulators.

The little one in the family tends to be:

  • Fun lover
  • Without complications
  • Manipulators
  • Extroverts
  • Attention seekers
  • Self-centered
  • Sociable
  • Autonomous

The only son

With no brother to compete with, the only child often rivals his father. Being the center of attention of their parents, the child gets used to receiving all the care of adults, and expects the same care and protection from everyone else, and not only in childhood, also in adulthood. If parents overprotect it, it can fall into dependence and self-centeredness..

Growing up surrounded by adults, he is generally a more mature child than others of the same age. He is also usually quite perfectionist, and tends to reach his goals, no matter what. He usually develops his intellect further, as well as certain skills such as ingenuity and creativity.

In many ways, the only child is very similar to the firstborn, but takes his qualities to the extreme. Tends to be a leader, is conservative and organized. It also tends to be more difficult to handle. He can be very demanding and unforgiving, and he hates to admit that he is wrong. It is hard for him to accept criticism.

It is characterized by the following features:

  • Mature for his age
  • Leader
  • Perfectionist
  • Very responsible
  • Diligent
  • You feel more comfortable with adults than with other children

Applied studies

The theory says that the order in which we are born has a strong impact on our personality. Some claim that it also happens with the level of intelligence, as researchers from the University of Leipzig and Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (Germany) studied more than 20,000 adults from the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. In this study they compared the intellectual level of siblings within families and the order of their birth.

They apparently found that older siblings generally show better performance in intelligence tests. However, scientists found no relationship between birth order and emotional stability or imagination.

Another study provided more evidence that the order of birth affects personality. The researchers analyzed personality traits of 377,000 high school students in the United States.

What they found was that firstborn children generally tend to be more honest and dominant. However, they are also less sociable and less resistant to stress. Medium brothers tend to be more aware and diligent. And the youngest child in a family is more likely to be the most open and sociable. Children who do not have siblings tend to be more nervous in interpersonal relationships, but they are also quite sociable.

On the other hand, we must emphasize that research does not take into account social factors as important as education, the well-being of parents and relationships within a family. Although the birth order can have a certain impact on personality or intelligence, we must not forget that the relationships between parents and children and the upbringing that children receive in their homes are much more important factors to shape their lives as individuals.

It may interest you: 5-factor personality test


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