Birth Order

Does birth order have an
effect on personality? Does being first born make people more responsible?
If someone is the middle born child, are they going to be more rebellious?
If people are last born are they more likely to be on television? Are first
born children inconsiderate and selfish or reliable and highly motivated?
These, and many other questions are being thoroughly studied by psychologists
(Harrigan, 1992). In 1923, the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adler, wrote
that a person\'s position in the family leaves an undeniable "stamp" on his
or her "style of life" (Marzollo, 1990). Research has shown that birth order
does indeed affect a child; however, it does not automatically shape personality.
If it did, life would be much more predictable and a great deal less interesting
(Marzollo, 1990). Yogi Bera, a famous baseball player, said "Every now and
then a reporter who thinks he is Freud asks me if being the youngest is why
I made it (playing professional baseball). I almost alw
ays say yes, but
I don\'t think it had anything to do with it" (Harrigan, 1992).
Birth order
doesn\'t explain everything about human behavior. Personality is affected by
many different factors, such as heredity, family size, the spacing and sex
of siblings, education, and upbringing. However, there is an awful lot of
research and plain old "law of averages" supporting the affect of birth order
on personality (Leman, 1985). There are four basic classifications of birth
order: the oldest, the only, the middle, and the youngest. Each has its own
set of advantages, as well as its own set of disadvantages. While the birth
order factor isn\'t always exact, it does give many clues about why people are
the way they are (Leman, 1985).
If there is one word that describes first
born children it would be "perfectionist" (Harrigan, 1992). First born children
tend to be high achievers in whatever they do. Some traits customarily used
to label first born children include reliable, conscientious, list maker, well
organized, critical, serious, scholarly (Leman, 1985), self-assured, good leadership
ability, eager to please, and nurturing (Brazelton, 1994). Also, first born
children seem to have a heightened sense of right and wrong. It is common
in most books about birth order that first born children get more press than
only, middle, and youngest children. This can be explained by the fact that
the first born child is typically the success story in the family. They are
the ones that are extremely driven to succeed in "high achievement" fields
such as science, medicine, or law (Leman, 1985). For example, of the first
twenty-three astronauts sent into outer space, twenty-one were first born or
their close cousin, the only child, which we w
ill discuss later on. In fact,
all seven astronauts in the original Mercury program were first born children
(Leman, 1985). Also, first born children tend to choose careers that involve
leadership. For example, fifty-two percent of all U.S. presidents were first-borns
(Lanning, 1991). Researchers say that, in general, first born children tend
to have higher IQs than younger siblings. This is not because they start off
more intelligent, but because of the amount of attention new parents give to
their first child (Marzollo, 1990). Experts claim that a first born\'s will
to succeed begins in infancy (Lanning, 1991). The extraordinary love affair
that many new parents have with their first child leads to the kind of intensity
that can probably never be repeated with a younger child. In the first few
weeks, a new parent imitates the baby\'s gestures in a playful game. A rhythm
is established by mimicry of vocalizations, motions, and smiles. Think what
this cycle of action-reaction might mean to an infant:
"I\'m pretty powerful,
aren\'t I? Everything I do is copied by someone who cares about me ." After
a couple of weeks of game playing the infant develops a sense of "I recognize
you!" (Brazelton, 1994). This special parent-child interaction helps to instill
a deep sense of self-worth in first born children. In short, the parents put
their first born child on a pedestal or throne. Also, new parents are convinced
that their child is the cleverest child in the world when he or she rolls over
or says "Mama" or "Dada" (Jabs, 1987). Even though the child is a baby it
can still sense the profound sense of enthusiasm. So, first borns want to
maintain their parents\' attention and approval (Lanning, 1991). This is when
the arrival of a second child is often a crisis for the first child. They
are knocked off their pedestal by the baby