17 Stereotypes About Birth Order Experts Say Are 100 Percent True
These personality traits are actually influenced by where you fall in the family tree.
Whether you're the oldest, youngest, somewhere in the middle, or an only child, odds are you've heard every stereotype in the book about where you fall in your family's timeline—and what that says about your personality. And while we can easily write off assumptions that firstborns are rude, or being an only child automatically means you go through life never having learned to share, it might be worthwhile to give credence to some of what you've heard about birth order.
"When it comes to birth order, there can be some differences between the children based on their position in the family," says licensed mental health counselor Jaime Kulaga, PhD. Want to know what they are? Read on to discover 17 stereotypes about birth order that are surprisingly accurate. And to find out the roles other members of your family played in you becoming the person you are today, check out 15 Ways Your Siblings Shape Who You Are.
Firstborn children are leaders.
If you're looking for a leader—and a smart one at that—look no further than your eldest sibling.
"Research has consistently proven that oldest children are slightly more intelligent than their siblings," says licensed psychologist Sabrina Molden, PhD. "Also, they tend to be highly motivated, conscientious, and achievement-oriented."
In fact, according to a survey conducted by executive performance company Vistage Inernational, firstborns are more likely to become CEOs than their younger siblings.
Middle children seek attention.
While it's not always true that middle children act out, they do tend to seek more attention than their older or younger siblings—and with good reason.
"If the firstborn is this responsible overachiever, the second born must find their spotlight, too," says Kulaga. "This is where you might see the second child rebelling or being very competitive." And if you want to raise happy children, make sure to avoid the 23 Biggest Parenting Mistakes, According to Child Psychotherapists.
Youngest children are more relaxed.
While the eldest in the family may have had parents who were worried about every bump, bruise, and "B" earned in school, by the time they have a few more children, they're not quite so freaked out by every minor thing that could happen to their kids. And, the youngest children of families that participated in a study conducted by YouGov were considered more easygoing and relaxed by both themselves and their older siblings.
"Last borns can actually be more independent, as their parents have 'been there,'" says clinical psychologist Stephanie Newman, PhD, author of Barbarians at the PTA. "This means parents are often more relaxed, resulting in more relaxed kids."
Firstborns are particularly anxious.
First-time parents are often worriers, and with good reason: their firstborn is their only child for a period of time, meaning they tend to express more anxiety over their little one's well-being than parents with larger broods. As such, first children often absorb some of their parents' anxiety, worrying about the same things their parents frequently fret over.
"First time parents are anxious about safety because everything as it relates to this baby feels fragile,"says Carrie Krawiec, LMFT. "[They] feel pressure to meet demands of developmental milestones and transfer that anxiety to their kids. And if you want to make sure your kids are set up for success, check out these 33 Life Skills Every Parent Should Teach Their Kids.
Middle children are neglected.
Unfortunately, middle children do tend to get less attention from their parents than either their older or younger siblings. While older children tend to need more parental guidance, thanks to their more complicated social lives and never-ending school and extracurricular work, and younger children need to be monitored constantly for safety reasons, middle children inevitably get the short end of the stick in terms of their parents' attention.
"Middle children are expected to not be a baby any more once a new baby comes along, yet they don't get attention for achievement nor attention for being youthful," says Krawiec.
Youngest children are coddled.
No matter how old they get, many parents will always see their youngest as a baby—in other words, their last opportunity to raise a child.
"Parents of younger siblings recognize how quick these baby phases pass and may regret rushing their older kids through milestones," Krawiec says. "They may compensate by keeping their youngest in phases longer like nursing [and] co-sleeping."
Youngest children are more outgoing.
All that attention lavished upon the baby of the family often means that they continue to seek out that same attention when they're older. However, unlike middle children, many youngest siblings do so by learning how to turn on the charm. In fact, the results of YouGov's survey revealed that youngest children were considered particularly funny by both themselves and their siblings.
"The youngest children in a family tend to be more social because of having had increased opportunities, at early ages, of interacting with siblings," explains Molden.
Only children have trouble socializing.
While only children are in no way automatically destined for a life with few friends, there is a grain of truth behind the idea that, without siblings to develop social skills with, they may have a tougher time navigating relationships with their peers. That's why they are often content to fly solo, or find themselves enjoying the company of their parents more than that of their contemporaries. "Only children generally mesh along well with adults [and] are mature," explains community and clinical psychologist Tricia Wolanin, PsyD. And for more insight into only child behavior, check out these 15 Dead Giveaways You're Dealing With an Only Child.
Youngest children are more playful.
"Youngest children are playful, rule breakers, charming, and carefree," says Wolanin. And why wouldn't they be? They get plenty of attention and have parents who have grown decidedly less strict with each child.
Only children like attention.
Getting to be the sole beneficiaries of their parents' attention often means only children seek out the spotlight when they've moved beyond the nest, too.
"[They] are used to being the center of attention," explains Wolanin.
Middle children have a hard time finding their place.
Unsure of where they stand in the family pecking order—and thus unsure of who they are personally—middle children often test out a wide variety of identities before settling on one that fits. "They seek to find interests that don't already belong to other family members, making them feel foreign to their parents," says Krawiec, who notes that this can also cause middle children to seem "isolated and secretive."
Firstborns seek approval.
In addition to being ambitious, firstborns tend to seek approval more than their younger siblings. With only their parents to please for a period of their life, and an assumed leadership position later on, firstborns are often eager to be told they're doing a good job, as they have few peer examples to follow.
"They are kind of like a mini grown-up when there are no siblings to make up their peer group," says psychotherapist Rachel Wright. "Firstborns tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves, craving approval from their parents."
Middle children are people-pleasers.
Since middle children are often shorted when it comes to parental attention, they often seek more time and resources from their parents than their older siblings. As such, their behavior can occasionally come across as a little needy—but it does stem from a place of actual need.
"Middle children are often the ones in the family who try to make everyone happy—the peacemakers," Newman says. "They are connected to everyone else but also worry about their place in the family and larger world."
Only children are mature beyond their years.
With their parents, rather than siblings, serving as their primary role models, only children tend to have an air of maturity not often seen in their counterparts with siblings.
"Only children are like older siblings in many ways—particularly when it comes to their maturity," Krawiec says. "[They] are super responsible, perfectionistic, and also have difficulty handling criticism. This is true because they must shoulder all of their parents' expectations—a heavy load," says Krawiec.
Firstborns are controlling.
Firstborns often find that their status as the central focus of their parents becomes threatened once siblings enter the picture, which leads them to take control and ensure they aren't usurped from their position of importance. That's probably why, the YouGov survey found that man firstborns consider themselves more responsible and more organized than their siblings.
"Firstborn children have only their parents to look up to… It puts [them] in a natural position of leadership over their siblings, which can create a perception of control," Wright says. "That perception can continue into adulthood, creating a controlling adult," says Wright.
Middle children are more emotional.
The lack of parental support that middle children often feel can lead to them being more emotionally expressive than their siblings.
"Middle children often have more chaotic and destructive intimate relationships," says Nicole Arzt, licensed marriage and family therapist and advisory board member for Family Enthusiast. "They naturally seek out more intense relationships to feel validated or 'alive.'"
Firstborns are jealous.
The sudden upheaval caused by the introduction of a new sibling can set off a pattern of jealousy that extends well into firstborns' later years.
"This could be because they are used to having their parents' sole attention for some time, and then they are suddenly thrust into sharing," explains Arzt.