15 Biggest Myths About Child Order

Think your birth order determined your personality? Think again.

Has someone ever pegged you as the baby of your family right off the bat? Was a new co-worker certain you must be the oldest kid in your clan? Have the worlds "middle child syndrome" ever been dropped in your presence? For centuries, the idea that birth order has a major effect on our personalities has been perpetuated in cultures around the world. The only problem? Those assumptions we make about birth order aren't all that accurate.

In fact, according to researchers at the University of Urbana-Champaign, birth order isn't significantly associated with a person's IQ or their personality. Herein, we've compiled the biggest myths about birth order that people still believe. And for more on sibling relationships, discover the 15 Ways Your Siblings Shape Who You Are.

Firstborns Are Bossy

bossy child

While firstborns may have a reputation for being bossy, that's not always the case. "This trait is more common in the oldest sibling who may have responsibility for taking care of younger brothers and sisters," says Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW, author of The Food and Feelings Workbook. However, if your parents weren't the type to insist upon you helping to take care of the younger kids in your family, it's unlikely that this trait will rear its head. 
And for more false "facts," check out the 40 Relationship Tips That Are Actually Terrible.

Middle Children Are Neglected

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Middle children tend to get a bad rap, often viewed as the black sheep of their families, and the ones most likely to get left out of a family portrait. However, that's generally not the case: in fact, as the bridge between their older and younger siblings, middle children actually tend to get a surprising amount of peer attention. Additionally, since the myth of the middle child being neglected is so prevalent, many parents take extra care to make sure their middle children are on the receiving end of ample attention. And for more facts on children, here are the 40 Lies Kids Say That Parents Always Fall For. 

Youngest Children Are Always Babied

Newborn baby

While younger children may be the babies of their family, the idea that they're babied forever is hardly accurate. In fact, by the time many families are on their last child, parents are less nervous about getting everything right, meaning the youngest kids actually enjoy more freedom sooner, and are given more responsibility as a consequence. And for more sage parenting advice, bone up on the 20 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Better Father.

Firstborns Are More Ambitious

Job candidate in recruiting interview

Although firstborns are thought to be more ambitious than their younger siblings, that's not always the case. While some research suggests that firstborns tend to be high achievers, ambition is more closely related to the kind of family you're born into than the order in which you arrived. And if you're feeling especially ambitious, don't miss the 40 Best Ways to Jumpstart Your Career. 

Middle Children Are Born Mediators

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If a kid is born in the middle, they probably spend their whole life mediating conflict, right? Well, not exactly. Although many believe that middle children always take on the role of intermediary between their older and younger siblings, researchers report that middle children, despite being more empathetic, feel less inclined to conform than their siblings, meaning they're not going to fall into the role of mediator just because it's expected of them.

Youngest Children Are Natural Charmers

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While younger children are often assumed to develop charm as a way of sharing the spotlight with their older siblings, don't expect this to be the case across the board. In fact, many younger children learn how to behave around others by emulating their older siblings, making it less necessary for them to turn on the charm constantly. And when you want to put your own charm to good use, try out the 30 Great Icebreakers That Are Always Hilarious. 

Firstborns Are Inherently Responsible

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Think your responsible nature and the fact that you're your family's firstborn are inherently intertwined? Think again. In fact, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reveals that birth order actually has no effect on a person's conscientiousness. Ready for some more responsibility in your own life? Discover the 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet!

Middle Children Are More Antisocial

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While all that rumored neglect from one's parents might seem like a reasonable catalyst for an antisocial streak, if you're expecting middle kids to be shrinking violets, you might be surprised. In fact, one study suggests that middle children tend to be among their family's more outgoing members. And when you want to expand your own social circle, This Is the Best Way to Make New Friends!

Youngest Children Are More Likely to Follow Their Older Siblings' Leads

Group of Kids Laughing
The myth that youngest children idolize their older siblings and are eager to follow in their footsteps is just that: a myth. In fact, author Frank Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel, found that younger children are actually more likely to march to the beat of their own drum than those who preceded them.

Firstborns Are Risk Takers

skiing child
While firstborns may seem more likely to take risks to test the waters before their younger siblings do so, that's far from the case. According to Sulloway's research, younger kids tend to be the least risk-averse in their families, and eldest children the most so. 
And when you want to make your kids happier and healthier, discover How to Avoid Spoiling Your Child.

Middle Children Are Less Successful

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Think middle children are bound to have less success than their siblings? Fortunately, that's not the case. In fact, some research suggests that middle children actually tend to outperform both their younger and older siblings.

Youngest Children Are More Successful

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While many people assume that the extra attention heaped on the babies of the family leads to greater success, it's just not true. According to a YouGov poll, the eldest child in a family tends to be more successful than their younger counterparts.

Firstborn Children Are More Agreeable

Kids Studying on Bench

It might make sense that the eldest child in a family is its most agreeable, considering all the concessions they've had to make when their younger siblings come along. The only thing? They're not. According to researchers at Union College, birth order doesn't actually have any impact on a person's agreeableness.

Middle Children Are Followers

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Despite popular belief, middle children aren't the followers we imagine them to be. In fact, as Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children reveals, middle children are not only driven, but possess many leadership qualities—Warren Buffett, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Gates are all middle children, after all.

Youngest Children Are More Mischievous

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The baby of your family may not be the trickster you assume him or her to be. In fact, despite the commonly-held belief that younger children are more prone to bad behavior, researchers at Penn State University found that this stereotype was unfounded. If you're eager to be the cut-up of your own family, start by sharing these 40 Facts So Funny They're Hard to Believe!

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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