Sigmeund Freud was the first psychotherapist to say: “a child’s position in the sequence of brother and sisters is of very great significance for one course of his later life” (Richardson 12). One’s birth order position (whether born first, second, last, etc. ), one’s sex (male or female), and the sex of one’s siblings affects the kind of person one becomes. People often say they can’t understand “how people from the same family can be so different”. What they do not realize is that each sibling is born into a different family. Each new child needs to create a unique identity separate from the others.
However this new identity is created within the context of those who are already there. The people in a family change in many ways between the birth of each new child. Many variables impact on each sibling. These include the physical circumstances in which a family finds itself, (ie. location, income, residents), the emotional stability of the family, (ie. well adjusted parents, parental experience, settled career), and lastly the state in which they find themselves, (ie. decade, wartime, country). These variables mean that each child will be treated differently by parents and siblings and this is done usually unintentionally.
One must remember that birth order does not determine the basic values of a person or the person’s value to society. It affects social interactions more than attitudes and ethnical stances. Your birth order and sex determines in a large part how other people in your family react to you and treat you which in turn influences what you think about yourself and how you react to and treat others inside and outside the family. Your birth order and gender affect primarily your social behaviour and how you relate to other people in your life. They affect the way you relate to your spouse, your friends and the skills you bring to parenting.
Birth affects what kind of a spouse you will be because of how you grew up. “It is useful to know that something as simple as birth order can account for major conflicts in a relationship and that neither person is to ‘blame'” (Richardson 17). When one understands, for example, that an oldest brother of brothers and an oldest sister of sisters are bound to have conflicts over who is in charge, they can stop blaming each other and accept the fact that their marriage is a difficult combination. Friendships are also affected by birth order.
The friends a person gets along well with are likely to be in a complementary birth position. Therefore, non-complementary birth positions may partly explain any tension that exists in the relationship. “If you take note of the kind of relationship you have with various friends and then find out there birth order, you may find that your best friends all have the same birth order” (Richardson 20). While you may have much in common with people in your same birth order, over the long haul you will probably feel most comfortable with friends from a complementary birth order, especially one that matches that of a favourite sibling.
Richardson 23 – 24) Also, your birth order can affect the kind of parent you are and the kind of relationship you have with your children. “If you are an oldest or a middle child you probably either had some experience or witnessed caring for a younger child” (Richardson 28). Therefore for an oldest and a middle child parenthood may come easily to them and be most fulfilling. These adults may be inclined to take too much responsibility for or be too controlling with their children, however, they may simply be good and nurturing caretakers.
On the other hand, if the child is an only child or a last born, the child has not had the chance to observe any parenting other than their own. Therefore these children may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of “being a parent” and unsure about how to do it. Only children and last borns are likely to be less overpowering as a parent like an oldest. If a child is the last born, he or she may enjoy playing with their children more than most parents do. (Richardson 27-28) The relationship between the first child and parents can never be duplicated.
It is filled with the awe and wonder of having brought into the world this little being, the focus of the parent’s dreams and hopes. Even if the later children become more favoured by the parents, the relationship is usually not as intense as with the first child. (Richardson 44) The parents pay close attention to everything that happens with the first baby – the first smile, word, and the first step are all exclaimed over, celebrated, and recorded in the baby book. These feelings about the oldest child’s accomplishments can go on for life, through graduation, marriage, birth, and so on.
As a result of all this love and attention, first borns have many distinctive characteristics. These characteristics include; the desire to always be right and therefore first borns find it difficult to say “no” and “I don’t know”. They are motivated toward achievement and so they are hard workers and task oriented. First borns are serious and responsible and seen as very nurturing. (Adams/ Anonymous 1) It has been generalized that many oldest children have unhappy marriages. This is because spouses often find them impatient and demanding. “Oldests tend to believe in the importance of marriage and want to stay married no matter what.
If the marriage ends, they are prone to strong feelings of failure and guilt” (Richardson 45). The most common problem is how oldest children find it most comfortable to take charge and be bossy since that is how they have been all their lives. (Richardson 56) “Oldests usually want to have children and are responsible parents. They may be very nurturing and loving and crave the respect of their children. However they could also be overprotective and strict, sometimes harsh, and often appear as cold and distant people to their children” (Richardson 57).
Oldests children can be very demanding for their children to become adults. As a result this pressures the child to learn at a faster pace than normal. It could also be noted that oldest children of small families are usually happier parenting than the oldests of large families. This is because oldests of larger families may have been over burdened and burned out during their childhood while caring for their younger siblings. (Richardson 56-57) Oldest children find it difficult to make friends, partly because they use their power to get their own way and partly because they tend to be undemonstrative and serious.
They usually have just one close friend. Though anxious to please those in authority, oldests are often less popular than those in later birth positions. (Richardson 58) First borns tend to choose careers that either put them in positions of authority or allow them to work independently. As employees they can often find themselves at odds with their boss if he or she is not also a hard working oldest. Firstborns go into helping professions or leadership positions to gain admiration and respect. They also do well in intellectual work that requires disciplined and abstract thought.
They are less often in creative work and if they are, they tend to be more conventional than later born artists. (Richardson 58) Careers that have been noted as the best for first born children are those such as; scientists, lawyers, doctors, and journalists. (Anonymous 1) Another factor about birth order is the perfect mate selection. This relates to oldest children by the following two questions; i) Who should a first born marry? and ii) Who should a first born stay away from? The answer to the first question is a last born, while the answer to the second question is another first born.
However, the fact is that first borns often do wind up with each other. At the altar, they have no idea what kind of problem they will have to deal with to make their marriage work. This marriage is such a bad combination because when two first borns collide, there is a lot of heat, noise, light, and it’s an explosion! (Leman 29) There are two types of first borns. One is the hard driven type who is desperately trying to climb to the top, whereas the other is the compliant type who only wants to please others. This means there are two types of relationships that consist entirely of firstborns …
The first is the incident I just described, where immovable object and irresistible force come face to face. The second is where Mr. Aggressive is dating Miss Compliant (or vice versa), and the whole relationship becomes a bully-and-victim affair. (Leman 31) When first borns marry, there is only one thing to remember – Balance is the Key. It has been found that middle children are difficult to describe since they can have the characteristics of all other birth orders or none. “They may be lost in the crowd or develop a particular kind of prominence as a result of being a middle child.
Middles are so difficult to pin down because they are at once the younger sibling to the children they follow and the older sibling to children who follow them” (Richardson 139). Characteristics of middle children are; they are usually athletes because they have a need for competition. They take pride in being different and may be rebels. They are good negotiators, peace makers and great listeners. Middle children are sensitive, patient, tolerant of others and they deal well with both adults and children. They do well at social gatherings. (Adams 2, Anonymous 1) Middles do well in friendships and marriages with most other birth orders.
Middle children may stay in destructive relationships longer than most people because they do not want to give up the place they have made for themselves outside of the family and are willing to keep trying to make it work. Middle children usually enjoy being parents and do it very well. They are comfortable with having more people in the household since they came from a family of a least three children. Middles usually accept the responsibilities of parenthood more easily than youngests and are more relaxed than the oldests. (Richardson 152) “Middle children are often the most social of the children.
They are usually very friendly to everyone and look for friendships outside the family” (Richardson 153). Middle born children, with their experience of living with both youngests and oldests, can be good friends to people in most birth positions. Middle children usually become skilled at handling people and make good careers in positions that require tact and patience, but not much aggressiveness. They can also be good middle managers since they understand the needs of people and deal well with the ups and downs of relationships, but they may lack the ability to supervise tasks well.
Since many of middle children crave attention and affection, they also go into the entertainment filled. Middle children are less likely than oldests or youngests to become famous or eminent in their fields. (Richardson 154) Middle children are most commonly found in the following jobs; psychologist, social worker, and teacher. (Anonymous 1) As mentioned, there are “so many variations of middle borns personalities that it is difficult to make hard and fast statements about this order. Some middle children are like first borns and some in the direction of the baby” (Richardson 111).
So, because of their diversity, a marriage between two middle borns can on occasion work out splendidly, just as long as they are middle borns that complement each other’s personality. When you put two middle borns together, you are not going to get an explosive combination as you will with two first borns since this is not that bad of a combination. Problems do arise however when two people spend their entire lives together comprising since that is what middle children do because they are masters of negotiation and compromise.
This marriage will consist of playing down their feelings and then suddenly realizing that they are tired of never getting what they really want. This compromising is the primary problem in a middle marriage. They let the problem, which may be minor in the beginning, build up and grow to the point where they become overwhelmed. It cannot be said that every middle born should get involved with a first, or last born, it can at least be said that there are simply some specific traits that middle borns need to look for in a mate.
The traits that are desirable in a mate are; i) the person will be reliable and faithful, ii) the person is honest, iii) the relationship is something wanted, iv) his partner respects him and vice versa. (Leman 114) “Youngest children … are always the baby of the family” (Richardson 95) The families of the youngest may continue to baby these last borns beyond babyhood and even continue to introduce them as “the baby” to adult friends. Youngest children are special members of the family in a way that the first born and the middle child are not.
As a result of this ‘special’ place in the family, general characteristics of last borns are; They expect attention and therefore they tend to be the class clown and sometimes feel that they are not being taken seriously. The youngest tends to be fun-loving, affectionate, has a great sense of humour, and is the life of the party. Altogether, a youngest would have a great personality if he or she would show his or her serious and sensitive side. Last borns hate to be told that they are wrong. They often have feelings of self doubt and insecurity.
As a guard, last borns usually know where to hit people where it hurts despite their reputation of being the most popular sibling. (Adams 2, Anonymous 1) “When youngest children are married to each other, they may appear irresponsible to others, as they don’t take home making and childrearing too seriously. Youngests are more interested in having a good time themselves, and often do. ” (Richardson 99). Last borns can be having such a good time that they get into debt or even lose their jobs. Therefore all these outside pressures cause some friction between the youngests.
Youngest are not automatically too enthusiastic about having children, but they can be relaxed, enjoyable parents to have. They tend to be less concerned about the child’s safety and achievements and have more of a “laissez-faire” attitude to parenting. As a result some children may interpret this as their parent’s lack of interest in them. However, youngests are usually understanding parents and give their children more freedom. (Richardson 100) Youngest children who have been treated well as children are usually most sociable, easygoing, and popular of the birth orders.
Since they are used to having at least three other people around since birth, they generally enjoy being in groups. Although, if they have been unkindly teased as the baby, they may be shy and irritable with others. Or if they are from a large family they may resent the lack of privacy and want to do everything in secret. (Richardson 107) Parents usually have fewer expectations of the youngest throughout childhood and put much less pressure on the youngest to achieve great things. As a result, as one might guess, youngests usually do achieve less. Most youngests just get by as students and may be the class clown and/ or delinquent.
They’re the least career-oriented of the birth orders. They tend to look for work that is not too demanding, or something that will fit into their life of leisure activities. Most youngests know from the beginning that their parents are shared and they try to get attention by being different from the older siblings. Youngests look for ways to stand out and may do this most effectively by being a troublemaker. (Richardson 102) Youngests are most likely to be followers than leaders, so, if they happen to be in a leadership position, their followers will like them and their authority will not be taken too seriously.
Youngests tend to be happiest in jobs that involve social interaction with people and in work that involves the practical and concrete rather than the abstract. They may do well in business because of their ability to relate well to others. They do not want or can’t control or criticize others; instead, they look for praise and encouragement. Last borns often feel at a loss or panicky if they are in a highly responsible position. They lack the self discipline required and often have difficulty making decisions since there was always someone older and wiser around to take care of things for them.
Youngests tend to be risk takers all their life and appear to be fearless in their attempt to prove themselves strong and capable, so they are likely to take on dangerous jobs or invest in high risk financial ventures. (Richardson 104) Careers held mostly by last born children include; actors and actresses, movie critics, comedian, and sales representative. (Adams 2, Anonymous 1) The attitude “we’ll take care of tomorrow when tomorrow gets here” is that of last born children. This attitude is what causes the most problems in a marriage consisting of two youngests.
If a couple of last borns have to choose between having a good time and being responsible, you can almost count on that they are going to choose the good time. They are not the sort of people who will worry overly much about the consequences. ” (Leman 171). A last born is a wonderful balance to the always serious first. The last born shows the first that life is not always deadly serious and that it is okay to have some laughs now and then. The first on the other hand will help the last born to face up to responsibility, showing him or her that there are times when life is serious indeed, and it has to be treated that way.
In this way a first and a last form a good team, and the two of them are able to have a balanced approach to life. If two lasts are together they are likely to feed off each other’s fun and excitement, which can cause big problems. (Leman 171 – 173) Since only children are never displaced by younger siblings, they’re never in the position of having to defend their position as the favoured child. They are more often considered special and precious by their parents than children with siblings.
Since they never have to share their parents, only children know their position in the family is assured no matter what. (Richardson 156) Despite not having any siblings to learn from or take after, general characteristics of only children are; they are more exaggerated versions of the oldest child. They are generally super responsible, confident and get along great with adults. Only children always want to be number one and demand perfection from oneself and from others. They are original and daring, conscientious and reliable, and sophisticated and independent. (Anonymous 1)