We’re breaking down what it means when you’re the first-, middle- and youngest-born child of the family, as well as for those who are an only child, too.
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Birth order and personality: Where do you fit in?
There are a lot of conditions that shape us and who we are. It takes a village, right? There is research on birth order, mostly investigating the role children play within the family and the changing parenting styles as families grow child by child. But studies on birth order and personality are a little like the research on coffee – for every study you find that says one thing, another pops up to say just the opposite. So, you will have to take in these insights with a grain of sugar (sure, it should be salt, but we’re comparing this all to coffee, right?). But from what we do know, it's still fun to learn about birth order and personalities. So, let’s dig in.
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First born: A Girl
Big sisters are the best, according to research from the Center for Global Development in the U.S. When the first born child is a girl, the child is more likely to be inspiring and didactic to younger siblings, specifically teaching younger sibs to draw and other fine motor skills. However, in this study, when the first born were boys, this wasn’t the case.
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First born: A boy
But that’s not to say big brothers aren’t worth their weight in the family. The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research says that first-born boys tend to be “more emotionally stable, persistent, socially outgoing, willing to assume responsibility, and able to take initiative than later-borns.”
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Personalities of first-born children
Regardless of gender, Time points to multiple studies and research that conservative CEOs tend to be the first-born kids in their families. What does that mean? They’re experts at making things run smoothly, including “streamlining product lines, simplifying distribution routes.” First-born kids tend to pave the way for younger siblings, are comfortable taking on responsibilities and naturally lead.
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What about the middle child?
Middle-born children tend to be quiet, reserved and tend to be the most envious of the birth orders, reports psychologist Catherine Salmon and journalist Katrin Schumann, who co-authored The Secret Power of Middle Children. They also talk about Middle Child Syndrome, where they can feel neglected, be resentful, have no drive, have a negative outlook, and feel like they don’t belong.
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The positive side of “Middle Child Syndrome”
Middle children are often said to suffer from what’s called “Middle Child Syndrome.” Psychology Today reports that it’s not all negative. “On the positive side, the middle child may also develop particularly good social skills in order to keep from being ignored.” Thoughtful and methodical, kids born in the middle of older and younger children take their time choosing careers and invest in their relationships with those outside of the family, according to that same Time report. They want to work somewhere where they can enjoy their work and “thrive.” Plus, they’re in relationships for the long haul, as they are great at being agreeable and keeping the peace.
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What about the youngest kid in the family?
Generally speaking, it’s common thought that the last-born children, because moms and dads are much more lax with their parenting styles with them, are more adventurous and independent. And a University of Birmingham study of 17,000 children born in 1970 found that “the youngest children born into families who are not self-employed are almost 50% more likely to take a risk of going into business. This figure increased to 65-per cent for a last-born child in an already entrepreneurial family.”
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The youngest are natural entertainers
What do Ali Wong, Patti Harrison and Dave Chappelle have in common? They’re all the youngest born in their families and they’re funny as hell. According to YouGov research, the youngest kids in families are more likely to be funny: 46% compared to 36% of elder siblings.
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What about the only child?
Kids from single-child families may not have siblings to learn from or play with, but that’s not a concern, reports Scientific American. They do not have to develop isolated personalities, become loners or terrible communicators. It often results in what’s called “creative play,” where a child has imaginary friends. And it can promote “social development and the ability to communicate.”
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One last thing about only children
Often thought to be selfish, lonely or maladjusted, only children do not have to posess these personality traits, reports the American Psychological Association with a review study called “The Only Child.” Kids from single-child families receive more one-on-one attention than kids from multi-child families, and that can mean higher scores on intelligence, drive and for trusting.