There are many factors are involved in shaping our character and personality, and all of these can impact decisions we make regarding relationships, both platonic and romantic. Our gender, temperament, spacing between ourselves and our siblings, and other developmental and environmental factors play a significant role in how we become who we are as adults. Birth order (or, if you are adopted, your place in the family) also plays a key role in determining our personalities and can help us to understand human nature. Not only can we examine our birth order to learn about ourselves, we can also use it to understand others, especially when dating (or maneuvering existing relationships). If you ask your potential mate if he or she is the first, middle, last or only child, you can tell a lot about how he/she may feel, behave or think.
There is research that suggests that birth order reflects a pattern of traits, and birth order has been studied since the 1920s. There have been a number of studies that looked at the role of birth order on intelligence and social traits. More modern studies found that first-born children started talking earlier and were more achievement-oriented. Some people believe that birth order is not very important and is only one piece of a larger puzzle related to development of personality. There appear to be some key qualities for each birth position that do exist across the board.
Through all of this research, specific characteristics have been identified that relate to your place in the family. Let’s examine what those may be.
Starting with first borns:
First borns crave approval and attention. Many first borns, as they often lose the full attention of their parents within the first four years of life, before they feel fully secure, work hard to get approval from others, and often have difficulty managing any type of criticism. They are motivated to succeed. They are also highly responsible. One negative trait is that they are prone to anxiety. Here’s an interesting tidbit — 21 of the first 23 American astronauts and 52 percent of presidents were first born or only children.
Moving on to middle children:
Middle children get on well with others and can adapt to almost any situation. They often are willing to compromise, but this can sometimes at their own expense. Middle children tend to be realistic about their abilities and talents. Because they can be pulled in many directions, many middle children may have difficulty identifying clear goals and following through. As they are so good on compromising, they often do so to the detriment of themselves which could create anxiety, depression and frustration. Interesting tidbit – May be first to leave home.
And, of course, last borns:
Last borns have more leeway in life. They often do not have strong expectations placed on them so they are more outgoing, charming, and are willing to take more risks. Last borns often end up being rebellious, as they are not as worried about being perfect all the time. They are used to being take care of, so may feel more easily let down when people don’t. We can’t forget to look at the impact of being an only child on personality development as well. Parents place “all their eggs in one basket” with only children, so they may have a high level of academic expectation. They also have to develop self-confidence and reliance because there is not a sibling backing them up. The sense of feeling pressure to perform and succeed can relate to perfectionism. They also cannot tolerate disorder frequently.
In families of greater than three children, all of the children in between the first and the last are considered middle children. If the gap between two is greater than three years, the child may have characteristics of both middle and last borns.
One of the things to consider is how your birth order can impact relationships, especially romantic ones. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to determine how you might be able to get along with others by knowing where they fit in the family? Here are some good, and not so good matches. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make it work if you fall into the incompatible category….lot’s of people do!
First and last borns are a good match. The idea of opposites attracting definitely rings true here. First borns like to care for others, be in control and are organized. The last borns are used to being dependent, are less organized and want someone to look after them. They also balance one another out as the youngest can bring some light-heartedness to the relationship.
Not surprisingly, only children and last borns are also a good match. An only child is sensible and conscientious, so can take charge in the relationship. The last born brings creativity and adventure into the relationship, so they balance each other out.
First borns also do well with middle children. Middle children can allow first borns to take charge and are likely to agree to any adventures that the first born would like to do.
So now that we know some of the matches that would work better than others, we have to also examine the ones that might be mismatched, starting with two first borns.
Two first borns in a relationship may have trouble because both may be competitive to see who can be in control, can be difficult to compromise. It’s important to stop and figure out how to navigate this potential problem. Two first borns can work if each individual works to respect the qualities of the other person. Figure out where each of your strengths lie. Additionally, each of you should engage in something outside the relationship that allows you to feel in control or that you can be a leader in.
A match-up of two last borns can also be problematic. Planning is not the forte in this relationship and things could be pretty chaotic. It’s important to work on learning organizational and planning skills together, so that projects can be completed and so that the mundane things in life are addressed.
First borns and only children can have similar difficulties as two first borns. You are putting two opinionated, self-directed people together, who may forget that it is important to work together in a relationship. As with two first borns, it’s important to stop and figure out where each individual’s strengths lie, and promote them as much as possible. Negotiation is key.
Keep in mind, that any two people can be compatible. People should not use birth order to choose… or not consider… a person to fall in love with. It’s merely another means to finding out more about yourself and others. Understanding the effects of birth order will give you new insight into your own personality and that of your loved one or potential special someone.
There are also a lot of variables that shape your personality… not just birth order. Patterns don’t always hold, and there are a lot of factors that could account for the differences. Mitigating variables – Divorce or a single-parent family, whether a later-born child is gifted or athletic, income, ethnicity, religion, a family tragedy or dysfunction, etc, all of these have an impact in the personality development of an individual. You can use birth order as another piece of the overall puzzle.
Here’s the interview from CBS’ The Early Show: