Birth order has been shown to affect a child’s personality. The forerunner of this idea was Alfred Adler, who was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud. Adler suggested that birth order was a major determinant of the main influences on personality. Since the family unit is the primary social unit for children for so many years, it only makes sense that birth order would affect how a child’s personality develops. A child’s search for identity, power and attention was influenced by their positions as compared to their siblings. Because all children are different, the siblings within a family could be considered to be born into a “different” family, depending on their order of birth. Because of this, children struggle for superiority between their siblings, fighting for attention and affection from their parents.
Adler posited that there are four main types of birth order: first borns, second borns, onlys, and youngests. According to Adler, the first born generally receives a lot of attention and focus from their parents. They are responsible and controlling. The second born enters the scene with someone else already there with whom they must share the attention and focus of the parents. The second born basically has two sets of parents, one found in the actual parents, and one in the older sibling. While the second born usually looks up to the first born, they also develop a competing relationship. For this reason, the second born often develops traits that are directly opposite of the first born in order to receive attention and recognition from the parents. Youngest children usually have it especially good, as they are often care-free and fun. They don’t feel as much pressure to be a high achiever and may even feel pressure to remain the “baby” of the family.
Only children have an especially unique situation, as they have very little competition for their parents’ attention. Many only children are considered pampered and spoiled. As children, they may not immediately pick up on how to interact with others of their own age. As this may create some awkwardness between children, onlys may prefer to be alone or with adults. They may also mature very quickly, because of their close interaction with so many adults.
As adults, birth order is still able to manifest itself in personalities. For example, first borns usually remain responsible in their adult lives. They also still enjoy being in control, even to the point of feeling uncomfortable when they are not the ones in charge. Adult first borns are very driven, usually achieving anything they put their minds to.
Adult second borns are often motivated by a cause and love working with people. As they may have felt ostracized as a child, they long to belong to a group as an adult, whether it be at work, school, or play. Second borns desire friendship and can often be the glue that holds a relationship together. They usually put people before anything else in life.
As adults, youngest borns are usually idea people. They are creative and fly by the seat of their pants. Although they may need to take life more seriously, it’s hard to begrudge them their jokes and fun loving attitude because it makes life so much more pleasant. Youngests may have difficulty finishing things.
Adult onlys retain the desire to work alone. This makes them ideal for projects that require a person to work on a single project for a long period of time. They always expect the best, as the best was usually expected of them (and only of them) by their parents. Onlys desire recognition for their success and don’t do well in conflicts.