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Birth Order and Personality

Birth Order
The order in which your kids are born may have a greater impact on their personalities than you think!

Birth OrderSure, you know that all your children act differently. But have you ever considered that the reason for their difference is the order in which they were born?

In the early 20th century, psychiatrist Alfred Adler proposed that children’s personalities are directly influenced by birth order. Since then, research has been conducted that has both confirmed and denied the associated links of birth order and personality. And while birth order theory is replete with contradictions, exceptions, and generalizations, those familiar with its basic tenets can often find at least a little bit of truth in the birth order classifications.

First Borns

  • Natural leaders
  • Reliable
  • Conscientious
  • Perfectionist tendencies 
  • Achievement oriented
  • Don’t like surprises
  • Can be aggressive
  • Can be compliant people pleasers
  • Model children
  • Seek approval from authority figures

Middle Children

  • A study in contrasts
  • Opposite of their older sibling
  • Secretive
  • Peace-makers
  • Value relationships
  • Independent
  • Inventive
  • Friends are a top priority

Last Born

  • Social
  • Outgoing
  • Love a good time
  • Charming
  • Manipulative
  • Can be irresponsible, especially with money

The traits listed above are general guidelines, as exceptions abound. Everything from adoption, divorce, blended families, alcoholism, disabilities, and sibling death can upset the traditional roles in birth order. The gender of children, such as all girls, or an older sister/little brother situation, can impact birth order, as well as age differences between the children.

Interested in learning more, including how birth order affects parenting? Check out psychologist Kevin Leman’s The Birth Order Book.

About the author

Grown Ups

Grown Ups

Grown Ups Magazine is a free resource for parents, teachers, extended family, or anyone who lives or works with kids. Enjoy digital issues of Grown Ups on your iPad, iPhone, or at grownupsmag.com.

  • Sadie

    Some people think that birth order and personality have nothing to do with each other. I completely disagree! It’s totally noticeable in my kiddos!

  • Katie

    I have never felt birth order applied to either myself or my sister, but I see it in other people all the time so I’m a believer it can be true!

  • Krystle Kouture

    Very thought provoking. I am an only child does that make me a first, last, or both?

  • Taylor Speikers

    Interesting article, and kind of makes sense!

  • Nichole G

    I am an only child. I have heard lots of not true things that are supposed to be for only children. I guess I think they are generalizations lol. I have however noticed a lot of the ones above in my mom and dads family so maybe people just have assumptions about us poor only children!

  • I’ve never really considered birth order’s effect on a child’s personality. It makes sense in some cases. Being the oldest of three, I can see some traits in the list in myself.

  • Christine T

    Birth order can play a part, but I think I exhibit more traits of the first born even though I am the baby of our family.

  • notageek4u

    I agree with the most part, with exceptions of the first born. I’m a first born and LOVE surprises…however, I agree with the perfection tendencies lol

  • I definitely can see how each child born can have a different personality because of the order they were born in.

  • In many people these are true and I can see them. However I have found that people with even mild disabilities do not fit these molds. Great list though.

  • Tatanisha Worthey

    This is interesting. I see myself in all three categories. I do see my younger child fitting about perfect in the last child category- except the money piece. I have yet to see that since he is still little! And the little $$ he does get, he likes to save it. But he is more than happy to spend my $$.

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