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As soon as you are pregnant, you begin picturing the bright future of your child. However, parents learn early on that their sweet little bundles of joy are anything but blank slates. To the contrary, so many factors impact personality development and ultimately, who the child becomes. Birth order is traditionally one of the significant factors that impacts personality development. Is your first born destined to be bossy? Is the youngest child destined to always act out? Are these labels destiny or merely stereotypes? Here is a look at the role of birth order in personality development.
Birth Order Explained
Birth order refers to the position in the family that a child is born and its impact on the child’s personality. Traditional thinking believed birth order had a monumental impact on personality. The birth order effect is that siblings compete for their parents’ attention and love. Each child finds a different way to do that depending on birth order. Those unique experiences impact the child’s personality development. Here are some of the character traits associated with birth order:
The First Born
The first born experiences the parent’s undivided love and affection. The first born has unique advantages to experiencing that undivided attention. When the second child is born, the first born experiences loss at the de-throning. Now the first born must share attention.The first born is considered a high achiever, leader, and controlling. The first born is likely to take on responsibility, be a rule follower, and a perfectionist.
The Middle Child
The middle child is considered a peacemaker who is good at negotiating and more easy-going. The second child or “lost child” also seeks out more friends than the first born because of the lack of family attention. The second child feels lost because he or she is trying to compete with the oldest child but stay ahead of the youngest child. The middle child can feel lost while trying to find his or her unique identity.
At this point, the parents have successfully raised two other children. With that success, comes confidence. The youngest child is not watched as carefully. That results is leniency. Often times the youngest child is pampered and spoiled. The youngest is creative, charming, and more likely to challenge authority.
The Only Child
The only child is also impacted. The only child benefited by his or her interactions with all adults. Only children are often more mature and more verbal. Many times only children spend a significant time alone, which also impacts their personality. That time alone allowed them to be resourceful, creative, and independent. Only children have a lot in common with first born children and the youngest child.
New studies have challenged traditional birth order research finding that birth order does not play a role in personality development. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people and is one of the largest studies on birth order. The study concluded there is no evidence to support there is a typical first born, middle, or youngest child stereotype. The new research believes that the traditional labels are merely stereotypes with no scientific basis and instead are reinforced by the parents’ own beliefs. However, the study supported earlier findings that the first born is likely to be more intelligent. The researchers contributed this to other factors such as parents giving the first born their undivided attention whereas other siblings have to share their parents attention right from the beginning.
Despite the new research, there is ongoing controversy on the role of birth order. The idea that birth order has a profound impact on personality is still a common thought, both in psychology and modern society. Whether you accept or reject the birth order studies, it is important to acknowledge how much new children impact the family structure, but it does not mean the baby is doomed to be spoiled rotten or other negative stereotypes. You know your child, and as the parent, you know how to support your child when faced with difficulties.