Edward Albee said, “Your source material is the people you know, not those you don’t know, but every character is an extension of the author’s own personality. ” Breaking that down, it says that you are defined by your surroundings. Are surroundings what determines success and failure? If not then what does? Can the fate of one person trace back to just how they were raised, environment, and how large their family is? Does birth order actually affect personality, and are there any contradictions to it?
Many theorists believe that the order you are born in influences your personality, from dealing with friendship, work, or love. There is a large debate over birth order, with some stating it is false with no effect and many finding studies that there are small differences between older and younger siblings. What makes a person different than another, and how is each person unique? Personality. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, personality is the set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, as well as attractive characteristics.
The qualities that make a person interesting or pleasant to be around. The question arises of how one gets their personality and what shaped it. Many believe it comes from their environment, others say ethnicity, and one main theory is where you are at on the totem pole in your family-birth order. Alfred Adler was an Austrian psychoanalyst who was a fan of Sigmund Freud, and he believed that Freud neglected his research and state of affairs. Eventually, he developed his own school of psychology. One of his main subjects was that birth order was worthy of study.
He inferred that to the family structure, the number of children and the changing circumstances of the parents over time makes permanent imprints on an individual through their personality. He proved that personality can be affected, through gender, age, and social class (Eisenman, 2009). An article, The Real Deal with Birth Order, deciphers each sibling and explains their stereotypes, but it also finds the contradictions. The firstborn is usually stereotyped as the alpha, for they are the natural born leader with high academic levels and responsibility.
The oldest also receives the most attention, but also competes with the youngest, as the oldest is the most competitive and ambitious (Ratledge, 2015). Another reason for the oldest to have certain personality traits is they get their parents all to themselves before any other siblings arrive. First borns usually have a better percentage rate at achieving than other siblings, due to their adult like interest (Eisenman, 2009). They also get 3,000 more quality hours than the next sibling, which allows them to be more parent like around the other siblings since they were able to observe how their parents treated them.
Top careers for first born are typically in the fields of government, information technology, engineering, and science (“The Birth Order Effect [Effect],” n. d. ). However, high expectations can be made for the first born, and when the first born feels like they have failed their parents, they may start heading a different direction (Ratledge, 2015). The middle child is usually nicknamed “The Forgotten One” and is said to have the qualities of being the peacekeeper and to be the social butterfly, however at times the tend to be a rebel and do not like to be closed in on. Popular Culture talks about the notion that middle children are squeezed out of the family, the theory is they are not noticed,” (“BORN TO BE WILD [WILD],” 2011).
They eventually become anxious and annoyed with their position in the family, knowing they won’t be able to win automatically. They start to form alliances to outsmart them. Since middle children are more the sociable person outside of the family, friends have great sentimental value to older siblings. The middle child finds the attention and recognition in friendship that they have been seeking for in their family, and also are very loyal in any relationship they engage in.
An example of peacekeeping and civil disobedience would be Martin Luther King Jr. , a middle child, who led non-violent campaigns and protests. The middle child’s great sociability, negotiating, and fairness allows them to be great politicians, with a 67 percent better chance at becoming prime minister than any other sibling (“WILD,” 2011). On to the youngest, or the baby of the family. These children have characteristics of being outgoing, fun-loving, and uncomplicated, but also have problems with being manipulative, attention-seeking, and self-centered.
With the youngest, parents tend to be less anxious with them due to experience with the previous kids and also have fewer rules than what the first or middle child gets (Ratledge, 2015). Since the youngest sibling has a smaller chance at winning competitions against any of the older siblings, they gain the characteristic of being more of the relaxed sibling, and go about their own way. From their willingness to take their own path and take more risks, they tend to be more active than the other children and usually try dauntless sports and hobbies (“WILD,” 2011).
Many people believe in the birth order theory, and it happens to be true in some cases, there are a few flaws to it. One of them is the only child. Alfred Adler covered it all. Adler implies that the only child has similar traits of both the oldest and youngest child, since they have no competition for attention and receive it non voluntarily, especially from the mother. This can cause manipulative and self-centered qualities like the youngest sibling, yet they are able to teach themselves and become a kid on their own.
Depending on the parenting skills, only children xtrovert, but are able to switch back and forth between the introvert and extrovert qualities. Introverted children may randomly switch to extrovert to gain friendships, and extroverted children like to be content and focus on their own thoughts while friends are not around (“Alfred Adler Research on Birth Order [Adler],” n. d. ). Like the oldest sibling, only children have spent a lot of time around adults and tend to mature quicker. According to BestPsychology Degrees, people who are only children go into career fields of law enforcement, information technology, nursing, and engineering.
Adler was able to research twins and how the birth order theory applies to them. Typically with twins, one will usually dominate the other and act like the first born. Twins are closer than other siblings and become confident together, and do not do well alone. This can become difficult when they separate into adulthood, and they are susceptible to depression (“Adler,” n. d. ). Having twins can throw off the Birth Order theory. When one of the twins takes the older role, the other becomes the baby of the family. What is determined by all of this is the parenting.
According to VeryWell, a self-fulfilling prophecy forms for whomever the first is born in the set of twins. Both parents, especially the mom, will treat the twins differently and expect the one who was born first to take a more dominant role and to look out for the younger one. It is the technique of parenting that decides the personality to mold on each child and it is encouraged on many parenting websites to set neutral and equal expectations for twins, or multiples. On multiple cases, twins have been separated at birth, and few reunite.
The Louise Wise agency, conducted a study, later considered unjust, called nature vs. nurture. The point of this study was to prove the birth order theory wrong, as well as see if the twins would have the same personalities even though they were raised in different families (Richman, 2011). Lawrence Perlman, a research assistant in the study believed in twins being raised separately,”… twins were often dressed the same and treated exactly the same, she [the child psychologist and consultant, Viola Bernard] felt, interfered with their independent psychological development,” (as cited in Richman, 2004, para. 4).
At age 35, Paula Bernstein received a phone call from the Louise Wise Services and was told she had a twin who was trying to find her. Elyse Schein, the other twin, was residing in Paris while Paula lived in New York City. They met together at a cafe in NYC to catch up. As they spent the first entire day together, they are able to both tell they did not know where they stood and did not want to force any questions. The women came to the conclusion that they were different people of different pasts, even though they had the same genetics.
They were born in New York City, Paula and Elyse’s adoptive families were from there as well, yet as Elyse matured she moved to Paris and Paula stayed. Scheins states that she was proud of who she is, and she was created out of the cities and cultures she experienced (Richman, 2011). In VeryWell, birth order is defined as a child’s idea of their placement in the family, and it influences their impression about themselves, and how they communicate with others. Typically, being the first born meant the ability to receive fortunes from the family and having to bear the weight of the responsibility for the rest of the family.
Does that change if one were to be adopted? Adopting an older child can be difficult, and foster a distant relationship, because his or her past will be different. There may be issues such as abuse or abandonment to deal with. This can result in the older child throwing off the birth order, as they may act like the stereotype of the middle child and be used to no attention or they may act like the younger one and have many of needs. Most children who have been adopted were in a large group, or family, beforehand and one used to living in a certain way (Craft, 2015).
Kelsey Schumacher, a young lady who was adopted by her biological family cared to share her story and how her adoption threw the birth order theory off. Being adopted by her great aunt, Diane Schumacher, and being the oldest of the family, it was she shared a different relationship with her adopted parents compared to the relationship they shared with her younger brother, who was Diane’s biological son, Alias. Since Kelsey would technically be the first born, she should have been given more attention and more responsibility.
Instead, she was treated more like the youngest child and gained the characteristics of being a dare-devil. On the other hand, Alias was treated like the middle child at first, and gained the characteristics of enjoying self-company and became invested in inventions and technology. Kelsey is in an open adoption, and able to see her biological parents at family events; however, she is not the oldest for her biological family and received less attention, being treated more like a middle child. This caused confusion. She gained traits of being an introvert at times (K.
Schumacher, personal communication, April 9, 2016). This proves that the birth order theory is irrelevant, and one’s personality forms from the parenting techniques and environment. In the researches done over birth order, the middle-class family was typically chosen to resemble the average household, environment can be a variable. Environmental psychologists find the “Big Five” personality traits that are connected to the environment in which people live in. Those traits are agreeableness, openness to new encounters, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and neuroticism.
With these traits, psychologists can link them to one’s environmental values. From a survey about the economy and surroundings, psychologists were able to find out what personality each individual carried (Thomas, 2014). Other factors are the wealth of the family, where the family may be located, ethnicity, and background. When comparing a wealthy family to a poor family, there are differences in personality, because of how much time is spent with the children and keeping a healthy relationship with each kid.
Typical stereotypes can flip flop, if the wealthy parents neglect their kids and have nannies watch their kids, and the poor family has a strong bond and different values and ethics. The other stereotype is that the poor family may neglect their kids with possible abuse, and the wealthier family may plan a lot of family outings and bonding times. Many birth order theories and studies to prove them, has been done over a set of three siblings. Margaret Bartlett, the second oldest of nine, disapproves the birth order theory. Her family is one of the best examples to disprove the theory; she holds almost every contradiction to the theory.
With a set of twins, a death, and a remarriage of her parents to have a total of eight siblings, there is no such thing as birth order. It would appear there is no order whatsoever in the family. Being a large family there were several older ones, middle children, and babies of the family, but it was not in the order that they were born in. Margaret’s personality and experience shows that she would be a first born for having to take responsibility and look after her younger siblings, her older sister was treated like the youngest and had no rules set for her making her want to challenge everything.
It moves down the line to half-siblings, which is another ripple in the theory. As her mother remarries and has more children, less attention is given to the five children of the first marriage, giving the impression of middle children. At age 19, Margaret was devastated with the news of one of her brother’s death, which left a gap in the family. When the death occurred, it swung her mother around to give more attention to her first five. “It was as if I had a different mother or the old one back for a while… ” Margaret says slowly, remembering the past.
This caused a large sibling rivalry she remarked. When asked about the Birth Order Theory, she was able to find the pros and cons to it, “It is plausible to a point, but doesn’t add in the other options” Margaret observes (M. Bartlett, personal communication, April 20, 2016). The order of each child born may influence their personality and who they become when they mature. As many psychologists and theorists postulate that the order you are born in will impact the personality you gain. Does birth order actually affect one’s personality?
From the comparison of articles, studies, periodicals, books, and interviews; there is insufficient work done on the theory. There are basic stereotypes given, and in many cases the shoe fits, yet the order in which one is born does not determine his or her personality. The environment, and how the parents raise their kids determines character. In the end, it will depend on the parents to teach emotions, morals, responsibility, courtesy, compassion, and will power to their kids. As each kid learns these traits they will apply them and shape his or her personality. As the saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do. “