Birth Order and Personality


How does your birth order affect your personality?

For decades, research has been done into the effects that birth order has on personality, as well as life goals and accomplishments. Birth order theory was first presented by Alfred Adler, a psychotherapist and physician. While some researchers disagree on the degree of the effects that birth order has on personality, the consensus is that a person’s personality is influenced by when they were born in their family. Among other factors, birth order sets the foundation on which personality is built.

The First Child

The first child is the natural-born leader. Most politicians, directors, entrepeneurs and others called on to manage others are first born. Because they usually get the most attention from their parents and younger siblings look toward them as examples, first-born children tend to be confident and perfectionist.

The basic traits of the first born can appear in two manners: nurturing and compliant, or aggressive and directive. Either way the first born is fulfilling the reliable leader.

first-born-second-bornThe Second/Middle Child

The middle child tends to be the opposite of the first child. If the first child is known as the science kid, the middle child will be the artsy one. If the middle child is also the second child, they can be competitive and rebellious. They long to best their older sibling and stand out from the crowd.

Some middle children always feel literally stuck in the middle, and their personality traits change depending on their surroundings. They are thought to be the most diplomatic, with better social skills than others.

 The Third/Last Child

The third or last child is an individualist and idealist. Since their parents have less expectations for their role in the family, the last child is given more freedom to make their own, unique mark on the world. Because they are the baby they tend to be less mature than others, and more sensitive.

Last borns can be outgoing and sociable, or withdrawn and secretive. But both types show the basic personality of individualism and creativity.

The Only Child

People who were the only child vary in their personas. Because they have no siblings, much depends on the parenting style they received. They can appear as any of the other birth orders, but they are often like the first child in that tend to be attention-seeking and are more mature.

Only children are often precocious and are thought to be intelligent. They score well on academic-oriented tests and show great motivation in school. They are generally less diplomatic and less open to new ideas.

Those who are are twins or part of other multiple births can appear like any of the other birth orders. One may take on the personality of a first born, others may behave like a last born. Much also depends on the parenting style and the roles assigned or implied by their parents.

What is your birth order? How do you think your birth order affects your personality?

17 thoughts on “Birth Order and Personality

  1. I’m an only child. I have no idea how it affected my personality, though. What I know is that most of the people I meet are surprised to learn I’m an only child. (“You don’t seem like an only child; you are not spoiled”). So I guess it goes with the stereotype of only children being spoiled.

    All I know I was very jealous as a kid, so I don’t know how I’d react to baby brother or a sister. But growing up, I’ve realized I missed them. I really miss having a sibling. Particularly an older brother.

    So you could say I miss an older brother I never had. (Does that make any sense?)

  2. Mira, yes, I think I was surprised to learn you were an only child. But not because you don’t seem spoiled because lots of only children don’t seem spoiled. But you’re mature and social/like to talk to people (at least online) like an only child.

    “So you could say I miss an older brother I never had. (Does that make any sense?)”

    Oddly, yes. 🙂

    My older brother and I were best friends growing up.

  3. Well, I’m a “Last Child”.

    Hmm I don’t know about more freedom in my case. I’m the only girl in my family unless you count half sisters that did not live with us.. Well, I can agree that I’m not that mature lol, I like to joke around a lot and stuff like that.

    Wait. So my twins will be two leaders or one of them will assume that role and the other will follow? Kinda screws up the whole thing..

  4. Nkosazana,

    ‘Well, I’m a “Last Child”.’

    Me too. 🙂

    Yes, I wonder how things are affected when you’re the only son/daughter? If a girl has two older brothers and one younger one, will she still behave like a middle child? Or will she act like a first born?

    “Wait. So my twins will be two leaders or one of them will assume that role and the other will follow? Kinda screws up the whole thing..”

    No, perhaps I didn’t make that sentence clear: I’ll change it.

    According to theory and certain studies, twins can appear like any of the other birth orders. And many times one twin takes on the role of the older sibling and the other follows.

  5. I’m the “baby”! And my older sibling used to give me a hard time about being spoiled. I don’t know what they’re talkin’ about. 😉

    To be fair, though, my parents were a lot older when I was born and didn’t expect me (40). They thought they were done because they were older! Ha-ha! And so, with the exception of an older brother, there are significant age differences between my siblings and me. I think my parents, my mom in particular, mellowed out by the time I came on the scene. I think I was a pretty decent kid myself, but I suppose compared to their childhoods, I was spoiled.

    I would say I’m definitely the individualist and dreamer in the family. As I mentioned in the previous post, in my working class family, I was the one who attended college, wanted to travel internationally, leave my small town with little fear of striking out on my own. I have an older brother who left our small town for Detroit with his wife and son several years ago, but that was because HER extended family was in Detroit and he wanted a union job, lol. I’ll go where I don’t know a darn soul, lol, and figure it out.

  6. Hi Daphne,

    I’m a last child, but I’m not spoiled. No one in my family is, but definitely not me. Because I always strive to be my best, my parents came to expect that from me and felt I was mature and responsible enough to do for myself.

    How many years are between you and your older brother? I don’t know — you might be a fake last child if you never had the experience of growing up with siblings. 😉

  7. Hey now! The next oldest is four years older than me, so we grew up together. I’m still the youngest. 🙂

    My other siblings were teenagers or young adults when I was born, and so moved out on their own while we were still rather young.

  8. I’m also an oldest child, but my family’s weird because we have a blended family + multiples. Since there are so many of us (7 girls), I’ll just go down the list:

    36-yr-old stepsister: likes to act like the oldest when we’re all together, but can be immature personality-wise; she’s the hood/partying sister

    34-yr-old stepsister: very responsible like a typical oldest child, has advanced degrees + is an overachiever; I’m a lot like her

    Me: Also an overachiever and leader; I was raised with the 4 sisters below me, so I’m a stereotypical oldest child

    19-yr-old sister: The rebellious one; tended to compare herself with me a lot when we were kids; she takes after the oldest a lot

    16-yr-old half-sister: the oldest triplet, and she acts like it; though I don’t think she’s as mature as the 34-yr-old and I were at her age

    16-yr-old half-sister: we say she’s the “weird” one, but I don’t know if that’s a middle child characteristic

    16-yr-old half-sister: she’s definitely the baby, and she loves to act it (complete with an annoyingly high-pitched voice); the interesting thing is all 3 of them like to take advantage of their “baby” status when it works to their advantage

    And, 10 years later, I’m done. 🙂

  9. Jasmin,

    It seems like you’re second oldest stepsister did that second child switcharoo thing: since the oldest was the partier, she became the academic. And you took on the role of the oldest because you technically are, out of your biological sisters.

    “we say she’s the “weird” one, but I don’t know if that’s a middle child characteristic”

    According to theory, it is. My sister –middle child– is weird too. 🙂

    “she’s definitely the baby, and she loves to act it (complete with an annoyingly high-pitched voice)”

    Ha. Your little sisters are so cute.

    “And, 10 years later, I’m done.”

    Or you mean, your mom is done? 😉

    She needs an award for raising all those girls.

  10. Alee,

    I’m not surprised. T, my second oldest stepsister (also the one you’ve seen in pictures with me on my blog) was very bookwormy as a kid, and what’s interesting is that there are also physical similarities between my oldest sister and the one right under me and between me and T. Those 2 are both darker, taller, and would be considered “thick”, whereas T and I are both lighter (in comparison to those 2), often mistaken for being younger, shorter, and smaller. People will even say we look alike (in those pairings), even though we have no blood in common!

    Ha. Your little sisters are so cute.

    You can have them. They are trying so hard to be 16-yr-old divas right now. 🙄

    How my mom did it is beyond me, and I just hope I don’t have multiples, because they are too much work!

    (That reminds me of the question I’ve been meaning to ask you: People always say that multiples skip a generation, but I wondered if that’s scientifically accurate or not? In my mom’s case, it wasn’t, since there are twins littered among my grandmother’s generation of kids.)

  11. Jasmin,

    Hmmm, I need to see all of your sisters. I’ve seen five of them so far, I believe.

    “People always say that multiples skip a generation, but I wondered if that’s scientifically accurate or not?”

    No. I might need to dust off some old genetics books, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t apply, in most cases at least. I think people believe this because genes that influence the likelihood of having fraternal twins seem to be sex-linked (i.e. on the sex chromosomes X and Y) so they can skip a generation.

  12. Alee,

    Yes, I think you’ve seen all of them besides the oldest. We actually had a picture of all 7 of us taken for Father’s Day last year, but I never scanned it into my computer. Let me see if I have some old ones on my computer somewhere….

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