How Birth Order can affect your Child's Behaviour and Personality
By Michael Grose
In real estate there are only three factors worth considering -
position, position and position. Investors know the importance of
location. Buying the worst house or property in the best street is
considered a smarter option than buying a terrific property in a less than
Location is also important in human development. Keen observers of
human behaviour realise the importance of birth order and its affects on a
child's behaviour, personality and performance.
It is fascinating to look at the similarities and differences between
children in families according to the perspective of birth order.
A first-born child is in a revered but somewhat difficult position in
his or her family. They are often burdened by exceedingly high parental
expectations particularly if they are boys. For a time they are only
children who gain undivided attention from their parents and even
grandparents. Their every move is under scrutiny. A quick check of most
family photo albums will probably show twice as many photos of a first
born than any other child - particularly when they were babies and
The first-born position is almost regal and worth preserving. The
arrival of a second alters this idyllic situation so first-borns often
spend a great deal of their time and energy demonstrating their ascendency
over others. "Look mum he's being naughty again" is often the
first-borns anthem as they go to great lengths to show parents how much
better than younger siblings they can be.
First-borns are also trailblazers for the siblings that follow. They
are continually taking their parents into new ground - breaking them in
for the benefit of the others who follow. Many children complain that
their parents are often stricter and more anxious about raising
first-borns than they are with the children that follow.
The youngest child, particularly when there are three or more children,
has a favoured position in the family. Unburdened by the high expectations
that many parents have for their eldest children many youngest experience
greater success than their siblings or they will make their mark in life
in a very individualistic way.
Many have greater freedom than their elder siblings as their parents
tend to be less anxious about their development and provide them with more
space and opportunity to go their own way, than was given to elder
As the youngest in a family of four I had far greater freedom than any
of my siblings. My parents admitted that they had learned from experience
which of my childhood and adolescent behaviours they should ignore and
those that they should pick up. To put it mildly, I had a good time of it
at home. Recently, an old family friend put my favoured treatment more
bluntly. "You were spoiled rotten when you were young. You had
everything your own way," she reminded me. That is often the way for
And some parents have difficulty letting go of their youngest child. We
usually can't wait to let our eldest stand on their own two feet however
we have a habit of holding our youngest back. Many youngest children
complain that even as adults their parents still refer to them as the baby
of the family.
Second born children are often born into a competitive atmosphere, due
to the pressure exerted by the eldest. Second-borns often adopt behaviours
and characteristics that are the exact opposite of the first-born. Often
when a first-born is cooperative and pleasant, the second will may be the
trouble-maker. At least everyone knows he or she is around. Or if the
eldest is the academic the second-born may be the sportsperson or excel in
the arts. The second-borns are often the black sheep of their families
choosing to make their mark in unconventional ways.
Only children spend much of their early years in the company of adults,
so it is not surprising that they often develop characteristics that
please their elders. Sometimes precocious, sometimes pampered, only
children often prefer their own company and have little trouble keeping
themselves occupied. They can also carry the entire weight of their
parents' expectations that can be a burden to carry around.
The wider impact of a person's birth order is often underestimated.
There is significant evidence to suggest that family position influences
career paths and even our choice of life-time partner. Anecdotal evidence
suggests the number of first-borns who hold positions of responsibility
and power in both community settings and within the workplace is greater
than second-borns or other positions.
When choosing a partner for life birth order may be a more accurate
indicator of compatibility than a horoscope. I suspect there is a large
number of first born women with experience caring for younger siblings as
children who have married a youngest born who is just looking for a
mothering type. A little research among the people around you will reveal
that such notions are not as far-fetched as they might sound.
About the author: Michael Grose is a parenting and
work-life balance specialist who always makes good sense. Michael helps parents
raise happy, confident kids and resilient young people, through his parenting
courses, seminars, keynote presentations, books and articles. Visit his website
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