Birth Order Characteristics

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In what order a child is born into a family is not the only determinant of behavioral characteristics or of future success or failure, but there is little doubt that birth order may influence certain personality traits. Listed below are various characteristics that correspond to the main three birth order positions: oldest/only, middle, and youngest. It is important to remember that these are only tendencies and that environment, genetics, and parenting styles all play a significant role in how children develop as individuals.

Characteristics of Firstborn and Only


Firstborn and only children typically get a lot of attention from their parents. Much of what they do is recorded in baby books and little achievements are celebrated as major events, so it is no wonder that these children often develop an appreciation for success and seek ways to acquire new skills. These children are seldom allowed to be just kids. Parents tend to be demanding of firstborn and only children, which leads to high expectations and undue pressure. Typical characteristics of firstborn and only children include:

• Self-confidence

• Perfectionism

• Good organizational skills

• High achievement goals

• Scholarliness

• Conservatism

• A tendency to make lists

• Good communication skills with adults

Characteristics of Middle Children

Research indicates that middle children seem to be more relaxed and impartial than their older and younger siblings. They sometimes feel ''squeezed'' and accordingly develop characteristics that help them negotiate—and sometimes manipulate—their place in the family environment. Because of their ability to play diplomat and peacemaker, they appear to have balanced personalities. Middle children tend to be:

• Diplomatic

• Independent

• Resourceful

• The opposite of their oldest sibling

Characteristics of Youngest Children

As the ''babies'' of their families, youngest children often do not get enough credit for their accomplishments. Consequently, they may rebel or simply stop trying to please authority figures. Youngest children typically acquire wonderful social skills because of their interactions with older siblings. They are generally charming, playful, and sometimes a little absent-minded. Research seems to indicate that youngest children tend to be attracted to vocations that are people-oriented, such as sales and teaching. Youngest children are inclined to be:

• Funny and charming

• Rebellious

• Persistent

• Lacking in self-discipline

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