How Birth Order Can Affect Personality

Renee Chua

It’s common to hear that the oldest child is responsible, the middle child is left out and the youngest child is attention-seeking, but where do these stereotypes come from? Psychologist Alfred Adler was the first to theorize that birth order was directly associated with personality. He found common attributes for oldest, middle and youngest children and discovered that personality traits can stem from birth order.

Firstborn children are commonly viewed as responsible leaders. They want to excel at everything they do and make their parents proud. Oldest children are accustomed to having their parents’ undivided attention and interacting with them, so they tend to act like mini adults. As the leader of the pack, firstborns also have to deal with being dethroned by a new sibling. Because of this, they tend to work extra hard in order to not be outshined by the new baby of the family.

Middle children typically have a harder time solidifying their role in the family. Not only do they have to keep up with the older sibling, but they also have to stay ahead of the younger one. Because of their position, middle children are good at keeping the peace between the oldest and youngest sibling. The term “middle child syndrome” has even been coined to describe the middle child’s feeling of being ignored and overshadowed. Due to this, middle children tend to have closer relationships with people outside of the family.

Youngest children are typically described as spoiled and irresponsible. By this time, parents have enough experience and aren’t as nervous, so it’s easier for the youngest to get away with more than their siblings did. Due to this, they tend to be more carefree, sociable and creative. Last-borns have the disadvantage of being compared to their older siblings, so they have to work harder in order to impress their parents.

What we assume about the effect of birth order on personality has been shown to be mostly true. Firstborns are natural leaders, middle children are eager to please and last-borns are risk takers. Although birth order influences personality, it is still possible to take control of your personality by rethinking your role in the family.