Sibling Birth Order

The other day in class we talked about sibling birth order. Alfred Adler was the first one to propose that our personality is at least partly determined by the order in which we are born. These are some of the possible qualities he associated with each birth order:

1. Oldest child: nurturing and protective of others, good organizer, highly anxious, exaggerated feelings of power, unconscious hostility, fights for acceptance, must always be “right” whereas others are always “wrong,” critical of others, uncooperative

2. Second (and all middle) children: highly motivated, cooperative, moderately competitive, highly competitive, easily discouraged

3. Youngest child: realistically ambitious, outgoing, pampered, dependent on others, wants to excel in everything

4. Only child: socially mature, outgoing, friendly, exaggerated feelings of superiority, low feelings of cooperation, inflated sense of self

Since then there has been a great deal of research on the topic that seems to confirm Adler’s theories.. It seems like what generally happens is that in a bid for limited resources and attention, each sibling tries to do the opposite of their previous one. If your older brother or sister is a bookworm and follows the rules to the letter you might be more rebellious and free-spirited for instance. Usually the oldest aligns themselves with the parents and so adopts the role of responsible conscientious one leaving the next one to find a different niche. This is why Adler’s traits usually align in the way they do. One of the most interesting documented findings is that each sibling is, on average, one IQ point lower and one inch shorter than their previous sibling. I personally am a little reluctant to believe that considering that I am the youngest of five. Oh boy. It is also important to remember that all of these traits are somewhat subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance superiority in one person might be confidence in another. And, lastly, it is very difficult to do accurate studies on families however, because there are so many variables that get in the way such as number of siblings, age gaps between siblings, parental marital status, major traumatic events while they were growing up, the list goes on and on

Here is a great article on the subject from TIME Magazine:,9171,1673284,00.html