Birth order has been considered a primary influence on personality since the time of Alfred Adler, a psychologist who was one of the first to consider birth order. Obviously, each child has different characteristics, regardless of their birth order. Things like temperament, social status, religious beliefs, economic states, gender, sibling gender order, and parent’s personality can also influence a child’s personality. In general, however, there are certain personality types you can expect from each child. Here are the characteristics you can expect from a first child.
The first child has a unique situation. They are “only” children for a period of time, then a sibling, and then often a caretaker for the other siblings. Because first borns are so important to how the family unit functions, they become accustomed to being the center of attention. They tend to revel in the praise and attention they receive from parents before the other children arrive. This does, however, cause a slight problem when a second child arrives and begins to steal the attention away from the first born. They may feel unloved or rejected because the parents had another child. Because of this, sometimes the first born will misbehave to receive attention, although some first borns choose to opt in the other direction- first borns will try to point out what makes them better, more interesting, smarter, etc., than the other children, in order to gain attention.
The other children of the family usually look up to the first born as the natural leader. Second, or middle children especially look to the first born for direction and guidance when they are out of it themselves. Consequently, first borns often believe that they should gain and hold superiority over the other children. They love to be right and hate to be contradicted. Oldest children may show off their knowledge or abilities to other children or adults in order to gain appreciation, love and respect. They are competent at an early age and may be responsible beyond their years. In some cases, this causes the first born to grow up too quickly, which may affect them throughout their lives to come.
Eldest children are usually socially dominant. They are very driven and extremely conscientious. Unfortunately, they may be less open to new ideas, prone to perfectionism and long to please people, which may be a result of losing both parents’ undivided attention at an early age. To make up for this, first borns often work throughout their lives to regain their parents’ attention.
When first borns do not achieve their goals, they often suffer from extreme guilt. They feel as though they’ve failed themselves, their parents, and those around them. They feel a loss of love from others when they’ve failed, whether or not that loss is actually there. They also have a strong sense of justice which contributes to their feeling of guilt- they think that people should get what they deserve. This makes it that much harder to convince a first born that failing at a project does not make them a bad person.
Whether or not your child grows up with all of these personality traits, chances are good that they will retain some of them. In order to protect your first born from some of the negative aspects of that birth order type, try not to ignore your first born once you’ve had another child. Encourage your child to succeed, but don’t push them to hard. Don’t give your first born too many responsibilities at a young age. Remember that they are still just children and should still be treated as such!