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How Does Birth Order Affect Personality, Family, and Society?
This research project will investigate birth order and how it directly affects one’s personality. This project explains why individuals behave differently within the family.
According to the systems theory, families adapt in response to changes in internal and external needs and circumstances, including the development of individual family members (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). For primary research, opinions from different hierarchical perspectives will be provided through a survey. Depending on one’s position in the sibling hierarchy, personalities differ because different stages carry different roles and responsibilities. This research project will look at how each stage affects personality.
For the primary research, a total of fifteen questions were asked to 6 people. Each of the interviewees was of different levels in the sibling hierarchy, i.e. first born, last born, the middle child, only child, and twins. In between each question, the subjects would have time to properly think about their next answer, this way results would be accurate and as substantial as possible.
The first interview was conducted with a set of 20-year-old twins, this interview was the most interesting and had the most answers. The next subject was a 13-year-old girl who is the only child of her family, the interview lasted seven minutes. The third interview was conducted with a 17-year-old girl, a 14-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy, they were all siblings and would represent each part of the sibling hierarchy. Topics about the personality and how it affects relationship within the home and outside of the home were discussed. The topics covered were: personality traits and parent-child relationships.
All of the subjects were teenagers specifically because they would be experiencing the effects of their birth order currently as they are still at home with parents. One hundred percent of the interviewed subjects identified with, and agreed upon the following characteristics and stereotypes:
- High achievers
- Very Social
- Values friendships and relationships
- Somewhat rebellious
- Attention seekers
This study is supported by Alfred Adler’s theory of personality development. Alder was influenced and inspired by Charles Darwin’s study of genetic evolution and adaptation. Darwin’s phenomena can help explain why children tend to differentiate their personalities and carry out tasks uniquely based on their own individual approach to life in order to reduce competition and conflict. Children influence most of the relations that happen within the family, they decide for themselves the role they will play in the family, parents only help reinforce those choices (Schafer, 2015). Some might deem themselves as the “responsible one”, the “goody-two-shoes”, the “smarty pants”, the athlete, the persevering etc… Alder, who is a world-renowned psychologist would suggest that children be raised or treated individually; meaning as the unique individuals that they are. The primary socialization in a child’s life is determined by the family. The family helps you gain a sense of who you are (Holloway, 107). If a child is not raised individually, with each of their stereotyped personality traits taken into consideration, it could result in a low self-esteem, conflict and possibly distance within the family.
The Theory of Ego development, founded by Jane Loevinger discusses how ego is developed in three stages (Holloway, 105). The second stage of this theory talks about people understanding and accepting their individual differences and through that, distinguishing variations in feelings and emotions that make people unique (Holloway, 105). Most parents might not understand the psychology that is behind a child’s position in the family, which is why many children especially the middle child, might complain of lessened love and misunderstanding. A parent should feel responsible for the well-being of their child, but many of them overlook the importance of understanding the essence of birth order. 2 out of 5 interviewees described their relationship with their parents as normal without any real problems. The other 3 however, agreed upon the fact that their parents do not understand them and in fact treat their siblings and them the same and bringing them up as “one person”; saying things like “Be like sibling A”, “Sibling A gets very high grades, why is it different with you?”. It is a challenge for parents to understand their children and treat them based on their different characters and psyche, which is why most parents don’t even bother. Feelings of neglect and unimportance may arise within certain children when they compare their relationships with their parents to that of their siblings.
Sibling relationships are one of the most significant relationships people experience through life. They help define our early social and cognitive skills. The emotional connection and protection that comes from a sibling bond is a great life satisfaction that helps reduce levels of depression. They can teach us about conflict resolution, managing social tensions, conduct friendships and handle ourselves in group situations (http://internationalschoolparent.com/). Gender also has a role to play in birth order positions. In the case of the first-born child, oldest males are more of leaders as they tend to take charge. Oldest daughters, on the other side of the spectrum, are more aggressive and confident, sometimes bossy. “Middleborns are the Type O blood of relationships: They go with anyone,” (Schipani, 2010). Middle children tend to be good at making compromises as they would have bossy older siblings and needy younger siblings. The youngest child of the family is usually treasured and in many cases treated as babies for much longer than their older siblings. The youngest siblings of the family also tend to stray away from taking charge and might be seen as the shy and quiet sheep of the family.
The only children of the family are usually stereotyped to be precious and would be pampered as they have all the attention on them; parents would not have to split attention and in worse cases love between siblings because there is only one child. Many say that only children are more mature for their age because of the amount of time they spend with their parents.
My research showed that the 13-year-old girl interviewed who is the only child of the family, considered herself more socially aware than her peers and is very much accustomed to and satisfied with her own company.
Symbolic interactionism examples that a child’s self-esteem is determined by the parent’s appraisal of the child’s worth, this occurs during the parent-child interaction. It assumes that supportive parental behavior like nurturance, approval, and love all determine a child’s inherent worth (Adkins, 2003). The child will be able to confirm that his parents accept him for who he is and see him as a competent and worthwhile person. The more the parent interact with a child using positive sentiments, the child will positively act upon not just her immediate family but the environment around her. The theory states that if parent-child relationships are spread across equally amongst all children, all the children within the family will have an equal self-esteem.
As proven by Alfred Adler’s theory, birth order does have an effect on one’s personality. As well as individualistically, a child’s position in the family can reflect on his immediate family, meaning sibling and parent relationships as well as how they relate to the outside world. If parents don’t learn to properly care for their children individualistically, conflict and feelings of incompetence could arise within the family.
Adkins, K. L. (2003, May). Predicting Self-Esteem Based on Perceived Parental Favoritism and Birth Order. In Tennessee State University Graduate Studies. Retrieved from< http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1907&context=etd>
Schafer, A. (2015, May 5). Birth Order Theory. In HUFF POST PARENTS CANADA. Retrieved from <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/05/birth-order-theory_n_7214638.html>
Schipani, D. (2010, May 28). How Does Birth Order Affect Relationships? In Women’s Day. Retrieved from <http://www.womansday.com/relationships/dating-marriage/advice/a1611/how-does-birth-order-affect-relationships-107592/>
White, James Martin., and Margaret Holloway. Families in Canada: Social Contexts, Continuities,
And Changes. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.
Whiteman SD, McHale SM, Soli A. Theoretical perspectives on sibling relationships. J Fam Theory Rev. 2011;3:124–139.
What Does Birth Order Say About You (n.d.). In International School Parent. Retrieved from <http://internationalschoolparent.com/family-constellations-what-if-anything-does-birth-order-say-about-you/>