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Your child’s birth order personality traits

Children, regardless of birth order, need to be given opportunities and encouragement to reach their full potential.

Does the order in which your children are born determine their personalities? Here’s everything you need to know about the relationship between birth order and personality traits.

Dr Kevin Leman, a psychologist who has studied birth order since 1967 and wrote The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, says you can bet your salary that your firstborn and second-born children will have different personalities.

Psychologists like Leman feel that the key to sibling personality differences is birth order – whether you’re the oldest, middle, youngest, or only child – and how parents treat their child as a result.

Meri Wallace, a child and family therapist with over 20 years of experience and the author of Birth Order Blues, agrees with this birth order idea. She says some of it is due to the way the parent interacts with their child in his or her position, and some is due to the obstacles each position presents to both the child and the parent.

Personality traits of the firstborn

Simply by virtue of being a couple’s first child, a firstborn will be reared with a combination of instinct and trial-and-error. This frequently leads to parents being rule-following caregivers who are too attentive, strict with rules, and overly obsessive with the smallest details. As a result, the youngster may develop into a perfectionist, always wanting to satisfy their parents. Firstborns enjoy being in their parents’ presence, which may explain why they behave like mini-adults at times. They are also conscientious and strive to be the best at all they do. Firstborns, being the pack’s leader, are frequently:

  • Reliable
  • Conscientious
  • Structured
  • Cautious
  • Controlling
  • Achievers

Strengths of the firstborn

Before siblings arrive, the firstborn is accustomed to being the centre of attention; they have Mom and Dad to themselves. “Many parents devote more time to reading and discussing topics with their eldest children. When other children enter the picture, things become more difficult”, says Frank Farley, a psychologist who has spent decades studying personality and human development. “That concentrated focus could explain why firstborns tend to be overachievers. Firstborns outearn their siblings in addition to scoring higher on IQ tests and generally receiving more education than their siblings.”

Firstborn obstacles

Success comes at a cost: Firstborns are typically type A individuals who never give themselves a break. “They frequently have an extreme fear of failure, so nothing they do feels good enough,” says Michelle P. Maidenberg, a child and family therapist. “And, because they are afraid of making a mistake, the oldest children tend to stay on the straight and narrow: They’re often inflexible – they don’t like change and are unwilling to leave their comfort zone.”

Furthermore, because firstborns are frequently given a lot of responsibility at home, whether it’s assisting with chores or watching after younger siblings, they can be ready to take leadership (and can be bossy when they do). This responsibility might cause undue stress in a child who is already under pressure to be perfect.

Personality traits of the middle child

Because of their previous experience, a couple who decides to have a second kid may raise their second-born with a less rigid approach. They may also be less attentive because they are surrounded by other children.

As a result of the lack of attention they receive in comparison to elder and younger siblings, the middle kid is frequently a people-pleaser. “The middle child frequently feels left out and has the thought, ‘Well, I’m not the oldest.’ I’m not the youngest among you. What exactly am I?’ Because parental attention is frequently allocated to the family’s prized firstborn, this type of hierarchical breakdown enables middle children to make their mark among their peers.

Furthermore, middle children are the most difficult to nail down because they play off their older sister,. In general, middle children have the following personality qualities based on their birth order:

  • People-pleasers
  • a little rebellious
  • Friendships are important to her.
  • Has a wide social circle
  • Peacemaker

Strengths of the middle child

Middleborns are laid-back sorts who must learn to continually negotiate and compromise in order to “fit in” with everyone after a younger sibling arrives. Unsurprisingly, middle children outperform both their older and younger siblings in terms of agreeableness.

Middletons tend to have greater ties with friends and be less tied to their family than their brothers and sisters since they receive less attention at home.

“They’re frequently the first of their siblings to desire to go on a trip with another family or to overnight at a friend’s house,” says Linda Dunlap, a psychology professor.

Middle child difficulties

Middle children were formerly the family’s baby until they were dethroned by a new sibling. Unfortunately, they are often painfully aware that they do not receive as much parental attention as their “trailblazing” older brother or the adored youngest, and they believe that their needs and desires are being disregarded.

Middle children are in a tough position in a family because they believe they are not respected. It’s easy for them to be left out and become lost in the shuffle. And their complaint is not without merit: According to a survey conducted by, one-third of parents with three children admit to giving their middle child much less attention than the other two.

Personality traits of the youngest child

Because of their parents’ growing laissez-faire approach toward parenting the second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) time around, the youngest children tend to be the most free-spirited. The baby of the family has the following birth order characteristics:

  • Fun-loving
  • Uncomplicated
  • Manipulative
  • Outgoing
  • Attention-seeker
  • Self-centred

Strengths of the youngest child

Lastborns aren’t always the strongest or sharpest people in the room, so they devise their own methods of attracting attention. They’re natural charmers with an outgoing, gregarious nature; it’s no surprise that many great performers and comedians are the baby of the family, or that they score better on personality tests for “agreeableness” than firstborns.

With their daring, the youngest also vie for the spotlight. Lastborns are more open to new experiences and taking physical risks than their siblings (studies has shown that they are more likely to participate in sports such as football and soccer than their older siblings, who favour hobbies such as track and tennis).

Challenges for the youngest child

The youngest generation is noted for believing that “nothing I do is important”. None of their accomplishments appear to be novel. Their brothers and sisters have already learnt to speak, read, and ride a bike. As a result, parents may react to their children’s triumphs with less genuine excitement and may even ask, ‘Why can’t he catch on faster?’

Lastborns learn to exploit their position as the baby to manipulate others in order to acquire what they want. They’re the least likely to be disciplined. When it comes to tasks and rules, parents frequently coddle the youngest, neglecting to hold them to the same standards as their siblings.

Personality traits of only children

Being an only kid is a unique circumstance. Without any siblings to compete with, the only child monopolises his parents’ attention and resources – not just for a short time, as a firstborn does, but for the rest of his life.

In effect, an only child is a “super-firstborn”: only children have the benefit (and the weight) of carrying all of their parents’ support and expectations. As a result, only children are more likely to be:

  • Mature for their age
  • Perfectionists
  • Conscientious
  • Diligent
  • Leaders

Strengths of the only child

Studies have also shown that only children are often intelligent and creative. They may also have better relationships with their parents, and fewer behavioural problems in school.

Challenges for the only child

Without a playmate in the form of a sibling to keep them company, an only child may experience loneliness.  An only child may also face undue parental pressure to perform well or succeed in school and other activities. Oftentimes, an only child’s parents are overprotective. Only children score lower on agreeableness, which is thought to be a measure of sociability, empathy and connection to others.

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