It may or may not surprise you to know that your children’s personalities are greatly impacted by the order in which they are born. Even only children have a specific set of personality traits.
Parents should be conscientious of these traits and respond accordingly. For example, oldest children will be keen on control and aware of a parents’ high expectations. The middle child may get lost in the scuffle, and a baby of the family gets used to being coddled.
The Parents.com article, “Birth Order and Personality” digs a little deeper into the traits of oldest, middle, youngest, and only children, and how best to respond to each one.
Psychologists like (Kevin) Leman believe the secret to sibling personality differences lies in birth order – whether you’re a first-, middle-, last-born, or only child – and how parents treat their child because of it. — Parents.com
Oldest children are the trial-and-error kids, thrown into the fire by first-time parents. Typically, parents are the most cautious and attentive with first-borns simply because there are no other children to split time with.
“Firstborns bask in their parents’ presence, which may explain why they sometimes act like mini-adults,” says Parents.com. “Firstborns are diligent and want to be the best at everything they do. They excel at winning the hearts of their elders.”
It’s the Jan Brady syndrome. Middle children aren’t the oldest and they aren’t the youngest, so they struggle to find identity. They are also, however, savvy at negotiation and within relationships because they have had to navigate the waters of having an older, more dominating, sibling.
“The personality trait that defines you as a middle child will be opposite of that of your eldest and youngest sibling,” says Dr. Gail Gross. “But those wonderful social skills that you have learned as the middle child – negotiating and navigating within your family structure – can prepare you for an entrepreneurial role on a large scene.”
Coping with an older sibling will always be a factor in middle children, but always playing second fiddle may not be. Second children who are the opposite sex of their older sibling are the first-born of something, so the dynamic will be different.
“As the second-born child with an older brother, 4-year-old Maggie also qualifies as the firstborn female in the family, which may explain why she also possesses the nurturing leader qualities of a firstborn child.” — Parents.com
Youngest children can grow accustomed to getting a lot of attention, but also to being laid back as a result of the parents’ laissez-faire attitude.
“If you’re the baby, your parents are already confident in their role as caregiver, and therefore are more lenient and don’t necessarily pay attention to your every move or milestone as they did with your older siblings,” writes Dr. Gail Gross. “Thus, you’ve learned how to seduce the crowd with charm and likability.”
These children have the undivided attention of his or her parents, resulting in a lot of responsibility and pressure. Only children tend to be perfectionists and mature for their age.
“Being the only child is a unique position in a family,” says Parents.com. “Without any siblings to compete with, the only child monopolizes his parents’ attention and resources, not just for a short period of time like a firstborn, but forever. In effect, this makes an only child something like a ‘super-firstborn’: only children have the privilege (and the burden) of having all their parents’ support and expectations on their shoulders.”
No child’s personality is set in stone because of birth order, especially since there are a number of other factors that can play into it such as blended families, large age gaps between children, and adopted children. But parents should at least recognize the typical traits of their children as result of birth order and help each child accordingly.