How Birth Order Impacts Personality

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We’ve all heard the saying, “if your first child was easy, your second will be terrible,” as well as “middle-child syndrome.” But how true are these, exactly? As it turns out, they’re pretty accurate. The birth order of your children impacts personality traits more than you may realize.

The more you think about it, the less comical it seems. While some people believe we’re born with our personality traits, others say our personality traits are abilities we learn.

When thinking about your children, take note of how each one acts. Your oldest may exhibit a need for perfection while your youngest child is more laid back.

Where Does Our Personality Come From?

Psychologist Carol Dweck believes that our personality develops from our basic needs. She says there are three basic requirements that we begin with:

  • The need to predict our world.
  • The need to build competence to act.
  • The need for acceptance from our peers.

Each person is different, and some needs may be stronger than others. When we meet them, it creates a unique pattern that becomes our personality. For example, someone who exhibits insecurity or low self-esteem may have a higher demand for acceptance from their peers.

The Personality Of Your First Born

An only child will receive undivided love and attention from their parents. That devotion helps shape your firstborn’s personality by giving them a sense of love and security. When your child has that bond with you, they’re more likely to be responsible.

However, there is a downside to being a firstborn child. In this case, parents are likely to be harder on their oldest because they want them to succeed. If you aren’t careful, you may push too hard, and your child may develop some neuroses.

Add in a new sibling or two and things may start to change. You now have to find a way to distribute love and attention to more than one child. Your oldest may begin to feel jealous or left out, especially in the early days.

parents with kids

The Personality Of Your Middle Child

Being a middle child has its advantages and disadvantages. On the bright side, your middle kid has a big sibling to look up to while also being that big sibling to their younger brother or sister. Like their older brother or sister, they may also feel more independent.

Plus, by the time they’re born, you’re probably going to be more relaxed in your parenting. A more laid back parenting style means the child won’t feel like they need to be at 100 percent continually. They know that it’s okay to be mediocre sometimes.

The downside of being a middle child, though, is that they’re often overlooked. Their older brother or sister experiences “the firsts,” before them. They enter high school first, they start sports first, the list can go on.

Along with that, their younger sibling probably requires more care, especially in the beginning. It’s easy for your middle kid to develop middle child syndrome. No, middle child syndrome isn’t an actual illness, but it helps put a name on how your middle child is feeling.

Middle child syndrome occurs when your child is feeling overlooked. They may not feel like they’re getting the same one-on-one attention that their other siblings get. To prevent this, make sure you find time to spend with them and make a point to include them in daily conversation.

The Personality Of Your Last Baby

At last, you have your final baby. Your youngest child will likely be the most outspoken and attention-seeking of your brood. Youngest born children tend to be the “act-before-thinking” type. They’re more impulsive and don’t necessarily think before they do something.

They also tend to get “babied” the most out of their siblings. This is mainly due to parents wanting to soak up as much time with their last child as possible. After all, they’ve chosen to stop trying for children and won’t experience any more firsts.

As much as we want to soak up the bliss of having a baby, it’s crucial to include your other children still. Bonding together will not only show your other children that they’re still important, but it also gives them a sense of security.

Avoiding Negative Personality Traits

Parenting one child is tough, let alone two or more. It’s easy to slip up sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing. There are plenty of easy ways to show each child love and care without leaving anybody out:

  • Don’t put too much pressure on your firstborn: It’s okay not to be perfect and giving your children that reassurance will be far more encouraging than pushing them to the limit.
  • Help give privacy from other siblings when needed: Don’t force them to play together all the time.
  • Encourage each child to talk about all of their feelings: No matter if they’re positive or negative.
  • Celebrate their successes: Even if they’re small, that extra encouragement shows them you care.
  • Spend quality time with each child: One-on-one time is essential for each child to feel like they’re being heard. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day, it can go a long way.
  • Teach each child to stand their ground: Don’t let your older children boss around their younger sibling.
  • Encourage each child’s interests: Help them hone in on an interest and build on the skill. To put it basically, be their cheerleader.
  • Use your experiences to teach: You can use your birth order to help connect with your children, especially during tough situations. If one child is feeling left out, let them know that you know how they feel because you’ve been there before.

Birth Order Matters

The birth order of your children impacts their personalities significantly. Whether it’s middle child syndrome or dealing with sibling rivalry, where they are on your family’s timeline can tell you a lot about their personality.

While we’re born with the most basic personality traits, our environment is what sculpts them into the personality we have as we grow older. By giving each of your children the undivided attention they deserve, you’re setting them up to be positive human beings.

So yes, birth order impacts one’s personality, but so does the way their parents raise them.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.