The oldest children are natural-born leaders, confident and temperamental; middle ones are attention-seeking mediators, and the youngest are bratty daredevils. But you already knew that, so I can end the article here, right? No, you are wrong…, well, partly. Let me explain.
Although there are some well-known facts about how birth order affects each child in their family, there are many variables that influence children’s behavior and attitude as adults, such as the size of the family, age difference between siblings, parent-child relationship etc. I took the liberty of conducting a little research of my own and here is what I have found:
1. The size (of the family) matters!
If we have three siblings in a family, then each of the members is more likely to fall into the aforementioned categories, whereas if the family has four or more siblings, sibling pairs will often share some of the characteristics. For instance, in a family of five siblings, the roles of the two oldest siblings barely differ, especially if they are similar in age, the middle child would either have typical characteristics of a middle born or they would assimilate themselves with older or younger group (again depending on the age), and the youngest two would likely have the same relationship as the older two. Looking at a friend of mine as an example, I discovered that although she is the third and youngest in her family, she is not the typical youngest sibling due to the fact that she has older twin brothers who share the spot of the older sibling, technically making her the second child. Additionally, the age difference between them is only two years, creating even less room for development of stereotypical sibling characteristics.
2. Age difference is key
Age difference may very well be a better indicator of children’s personalities than birth order. The closer siblings are in age, the more similar they will be in behavior and in their interests and experiences. Siblings with a wider age gap are often seen as the parents or caregivers of the younger sibling/s. Also, families with wide age gaps among siblings usually don’t experience sibling rivalry at all or not to the extent the siblings who are closer in age do.
3. Parents play a great role too
The way parents treat their children influences their personalities as adults. If parents neglect their needs, the children may become people who feel unworthy of love and praise, and if they pay too much attention to their children, the children may become entitled, spoiled, or overly cautious. The oldest children, seen as the most dependable, are particularly at risk of feeling obligated to constantly care for everyone else, but themselves and being reluctant in asking for help, because they are “supposed” to be able to take care of themselves. The middle ones, need plenty of reassurance and recognition, even more than their other siblings, as they are the ones that parents tend to forsake. Parents, this is gentle reminder to pay close attention to your middle babies! They need to be seen by you more than you realize. As far as youngest children are concerned, they are never short of attention and affection; what they need is to be held accountable when they make mistakes or they will grow up expecting the same leniency from others. Do not be stern with them, but do explain to them that their actions have consequences.
4. Favoritism is nobody’s friend
Another reason that has little to nothing to do with birth order is favoritism. Favoritism occurs when a parent or a caregiver singles out one member from the sibling group, all the while ignoring or belittling the rest. This behavior is a huge indicator of poor parenting on their side. It is understandable that parents may feel a deeper connection with a certain child because, perhaps they share common interests or emote in the same way, but that should never be detrimental to other siblings. Children who feel excluded or starved for their parents’ attention are bound to grow up feeling inadequate, insecure and unworthy of people’s attention. You might have heard of a saying “Comparison is the thief of all joy”, which is the saying that fits oddly well here. Children who are constantly compared to their siblings will lose sense of who they really are because of their need to almost assess their qualities and characteristics in regard to others. They would only know themselves the way they know others, which would only be a faint shadow of who they are, in a sense.
5. Gender speaks louder
This is another aspect where birth order is getting pushed to the side because in families with a variety of genders, the different treatment of children based on their gender is frequently seen. Girls are typically more sheltered and pampered than boys; they are expected to be submissive, do household chores and be more caring. Boys, on the other hand, are treated more sternly and are expected to assume the role of a protector. The age difference can, but usually does not influence these perceptions. Of course, these are generalizations. There are plenty of parents who do not use gender-based specifics against their children, but in the instances where they do, it is evident that those children carry the same views and even apply them to their own children which further perpetuates the gender divide and sense of hostility amongst siblings.
That concludes my research! I hope that you have found these findings interesting and that they have helped you learn something new. What is your take on influence of birth order on children and adults? What has your experience been like? Feel free to share your stories with me in the comments! I would love to read what you have to say.
Source: Does Birth Order Affect Your Personality?