From only the first few weeks of life, we begin to show signs of our own distinct and unique personalities. These personalities are amplified by our temperament, interests, social status, group of friends, and birth order. And if you’re one of those people with a very strong personality, there’s a good chance that someone who knows a bit about birth order could guess what your birth order type is, based on your strong personality. Skeptical? You won’t be after reading this article.
Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, was one of the first psychologists to suggest that birth order was a major determinant of personality. Adler observed that the family unit was a social group in which each person held differing positions of power. A child’s search for identity, power and attention was influenced by their positions as compared to their siblings. Adler suggested that all children are born into a “different” family, depending on their order of birth. As they strive for superiority between their siblings, they struggle to find attention and affection from their parents. These are some of the major aspects of family life that influences the personality of a child.
To Adler, the first born generally receives a lot of attention and focus from their parents. 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. Third and later born children must also create different ways to achieve power and recognition from the parents, but are not as strongly watched and disciplined by the parents and therefore may usually develop their personalities more freely. 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.
Adler realized that there were other factors besides birth order in the development of personalities. Factors such as the age of the parents, gender and gender order of the siblings, religious and cultural beliefs, and economic and social situation also have a dramatic impact upon personality. However, Adler did claim that birth order was very important in our attempts to gain superiority over each other.
As Adler suggests, strong personalities are most obviously found most prevalently in the first born child. Part of this is due to the parents have a strong “script” for their oldest child to follow- they usually receive the strongest discipline and the activities they are involved in are usually those that the parents hope for the child to succeed in. First born children are very responsible and reliable. They are very driven to succeed and enjoy being in charge. In fact, first borns usually feel uncomfortable in a situation where they’re not the one running things.
Second born children may also have strong personalities, but usually in the directly opposite manner of the first born. In order compete with the first born and the youngest, second borns often strive for attention in other ways. They may be very artistic and people oriented instead of stubborn and responsible like the first born. Youngest children may also have strong personalities, but theirs is usually a fun-loving, care-free personality. They are not often driven to achieve amazing things, instead opting for activities that allow them to have fun.