Effects of Birth Order Discovered

Alfred Adler, one of the first psychologists to examine birth order, used the term ''family constellation'' to help explain some of the personality differences that tend to develop within families. This research into family dynamics evolved from the study of genetics. Scientists found that the influence of genetics alone did not explain the extreme differences in children from the same family.

Although Adler frequently is mentioned as one of the fathers of birth order research, much of what he hypothesized has been refuted. For example, Adler claimed that second-born children were the highest achievers because of their relatively relaxed style. After numerous subsequent studies on birth order, however, it is now generally accepted that firstborns typically achieve the most and are often more intelligent than other siblings. Interestingly, of the first twenty-three American astronauts sent into outer space, twenty-one were firstborns and the other two were only children.

Since Adler, social scientists have spent a considerable amount of time asking the basic question of whether birth order makes any difference in how we develop as individuals. Generally, the answer is yes. A person's birth order position in the family has been linked to differences in achievement, intelligence, at titudes, and behaviors, including the presence of juvenile delinquency, mental illness, and success or failure in marriage. Clearly, however, many people are most interested in the various personality traits or tendencies that accompany the different birth order positions. Moreover, the literature is rather consistent when it comes to identifying these characteristics, one of the few areas where there is general agreement.

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