Does Birth Order Affect Personality?


Birth OrderI have always been fascinated by birth order and how it shapes an individual’s personality so significantly.  When you think about it, in which order you are born is arbitrary, its not like all the bossy people happen to come out of the womb first,  but is it coming out of the womb first and who follows after, that MAKES you bossy?

Birth order and how it shapes your personality has an effect on all aspects of your life, especially your personal relationships like your marriage. My husband and I are both first born children which should spell disaster for us as technically we are both really bossy. I’m not really liking this ‘bossy’ word, maybe we could say something nicer like, executive leadership skills (do I have to footnote Sheryl Sandberg if I say that?). But for us, both being firstborns seems to work out well, maybe Eddie has something else to say about that.

So what impact exactly does birth order have and how can we parent to those strengths and weaknesses customizing our parenting style to each child’s needs.  Well, here are some thoughts and theories.

First Born:  Some general first born personality traits are attention grabbing, Type A, perfectionist, sensitive to criticism, driven, conventional and bossy (leadership skills).

How to help a first born: First born children are often afraid to fail in their parent’s eyes so if you have a child that exudes these traits, failing at something yourself and then showing them how you handle failure can be an important lesson.

Middle Children: Middle children often feel left out, and more likely to form friendships outside the family. They are flexible, diplomatic and peacemakers, often arriving at peace through negotiation.

How to help a middle child: Middle children, because they often feel left out, thrive when they are made to feel special. Spending one on one time with the middle child is really important, it is for every child but especially the middle child.

Youngest Child:  The baby in the family is usually the rule breaker, they are skilled at getting their way, and will test their limits. They tend to be hard working and have a good sense of humor.

How to help a youngest child: As a parent, by the time the baby comes around we have probably relaxed the rules a lot more (yes I have, I’m tired of enforcing rules) and don’t discipline as fervently as we did the other kids.  Keeping up the same expectations and rules that were given to the other children can help balance out the crazy.

Only Child:  An only child is generally more comfortable with adults, and can have trouble forming bonds with kids their own age. Only children are independent, responsible, mature faster than other children and are very creative.

How to help an only child: Only children benefit from opportunities for interaction with their peers. They can be sensitive to criticism just like first born children so similarly, seeing a parent fail can be a positive experience for them.

This clearly is not an exact science; I can pull some of the traits and apply them to each of my kids. But recognizing that there are considerable differences in personalities that can merely be a factor of their birth order is a big step. I can try to counter balance some of that with parenting and hope that each child is given an opportunity to thrive based on their needs.

So what do you think?  Does birth order matter, do you see it in your family?





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