Ever wonder why your children are so different from one another? We know that personality is affected by both genetics and the environment. Psychologists believe birth order is a significant factor. According to psychology professor and The Secret Power of Middle Children co-author Dr. Catherine Salmon, “Birth order differences are thus shaped by differences in parental investment and the effects of sibling competition.” The following is an explanation of the birth order traits you can expect to see in your children based on where they fall in their birth lineup!
As a firstborn child married to a youngest child, I tend to agree. My mom was an only child, and my dad was a middle child. My in-laws are both middle children, and I have a firstborn daughter and a youngest daughter. I see common traits among my family members of the same birth order and differences between my children. (And I most definitely relate to the firstborn child’s stereotypical “bossy” personality!)
Firstborn Child Personality Traits
Common Personality Traits of the Firstborn
Firstborn children tend to be natural leaders since they are the leaders of their sibling groups. They are often diligent, reliable, structured, goal-oriented, conscientious, and independent. Firstborn children are often high achievers, perhaps because they receive so much undivided attention and praise for “firsts” accomplishments from their parents before their younger siblings arrive.
As natural leaders, firstborn children can be dominant and controlling (a.k.a. “bossy”). They can also be stubborn, outspoken, and perfectionistic. Firstborn children also tend to be overly cautious, inflexible, and afraid to take risks.
Parenting the Firstborn
Firstborn children are their parents’ proverbial guinea pigs in learning to parent. Parents tend to be much more anxious and perfectionist about raising their first child. These more stringent, overprotective, and controlling parental behaviors can rub off on the firstborn child. As new children are added to the family, firstborn children tend to take on more responsibility.
Middle Child Personality Traits
Common Personality Traits of the Middle Child
Middle children are forced to “go with the flow” and compromise with older and younger siblings. Therefore, they tend to be the most agreeable and generous of the different birth orders and typically become great negotiators. They are often funny and creative. Unlike their firstborn siblings, middle children are typically flexible and adapt easily to change.
Middle children can sometimes become people-pleasers who get lost in the mix and lose their sense of personal identity. Their personality typically plays off the next oldest child’s personality. Kevin Leman, Ph.D. author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, says, “Once a role is filled by the firstborn, the second-born will seek out a role that’s completely the opposite. Middle child traits are the hardest to categorize, but whatever traits he develops play off the firstborn.”
Parenting the Middle Child
Parents often struggle to give their middle children as much attention, support, and resources as their other children. They are least likely to be spoiled, but this lack of attention and quality time with their parents can leave middle children doubting their value.
Youngest Child Personality Traits
Common Personality Traits of the Youngest Child
Youngest children are often the most social and adventurous of the birth orders. They are often the most carefree, easygoing, and affectionate of the birth orders, likely because they bear the least amount of responsibility in the family.
Youngest children can be manipulative, spoiled, rebellious, and attention-seeking. They also tend to be less independent and conscientious than their older siblings.
Parenting the Youngest Child
Parents often fail to fully recognize and honor their youngest children’s “firsts” because they have already experienced these events with their older children. They also tend to give older children more decision-making power and responsibility, making younger children fear they are incapable.
Only Child Personality Traits
Common Personality Traits of the Only Child
Only children have many of the same strengths as firstborn children. They are natural leaders who are wildly independent for obvious reasons. Only children are often mature for their age, perhaps because they only interact with adults at home.
Likewise, only children have many of the same challenges as firstborn children. They are even more accustomed than firstborn children to being the center of attention and getting their way in the family. Thus, only children can be inflexible, perfectionistic, and overly cautious.
Parenting an Only Child
Only children are essentially firstborn children on steroids, metaphorically speaking. They never have to compete with siblings for their parents’ attention, resources, or support. They often feel a lot of pressure to be perfect because they are the sole target of their parents’ expectations.
What birth orders do you have in your family? Do you find these birth order traits true for yourself and your children? If you are interested in parenting tips based on your personality traits, check out our guide to motherhood and the Enneagram.