How Does Birth Order Affect Behavior And Personality? Experts And Real Moms Discuss The Differences Between First Born Kids, Middle Kids, And Youngest Kids.

Birth order has been credited and blamed for the successes and failures of many. Does birth order affect personality and behavior? Moms and experts say yes. Marcie Seither has six children ranging in age from 9 to 23 – “I had one in potty training and one in driver’s training at the same time” – and is absolutely convinced that birth order affects behavior.
Mary Fetzer

Seither’s kids are matched sets. The three elder children – boy, girl, boy – are 23, 22 and 20, and the three younger children – also boy, girl, boy – are 14, 12 and 9.

According to Seither, birth order is predictable but can be affected by the number of years between children. “Birth order traits start again if there is a gap of about five years between siblings,” suggests Seither. “We have two oldest, two middles and two babies, and they look and act just like their counterpart.”

I’m the oldest child and a born leader
Tina Tessina, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist with 30 years of counseling experience and says it’s logical for birth order to affect behavior. “Eldest children tend to relate more closely to parents,” says Tessina, “so they will be either cooperative or rebellious in reaction to elders (parents).” 

Maeve MacSteves finds this is true with adopted children, too. MacSteves adopted their kids “out of order.” Her first child joined the family as a baby, and when he was 4, his parents adopted 8-year-old and 10-year-old siblings.

“It’s eerie to see how much our first son acts as if he is the oldest,” says MacSteves. He consistently tells his siblings what to do and how to behave. MacSteves, who refers to her third eldest as “our first guy,” worries that he takes on too much responsibility for his siblings and “acts like a mini-parent much of the time.”

That’s normal, according to Tessina. “First-born children have better self-management skills and grow up teaching, watching and taking care of their younger siblings.”

Famous firstborns: Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Winston Churchill, Oprah Winfrey, J. K. Rowling, Reese Witherspoon, Walter Cronkite, John Wayne and Harrison Ford.

I’m the middle child…what can I do to feel special?
Second and middle children try to be different from big brother or sister. “If the first is rebellious, the second is more amenable,” suggests Tessina. “If the eldest shines in academics, the second tends toward sports or artistic pursuits. If the older child is cooperative, the second tends to be more rebellious.”

This second child – especially if he or she is the middle sibling – tends to be focused on their older siblings rather than their parents and therefore relate better to peers than adults, says Tessina.

Famous seconds/middles: Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donald Trump, Barbara Walters, John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates, Princess Diana and David Letterman

Spoiled? No, I’m just the baby of the family
When Seither’s two eldest children moved out, her third child – although quite a bit older than his siblings – was still like a “baby” of the family.

“The baby is in danger of remaining childlike for life,” says Tessina. “Often coddled by parents and outpaced by older siblings, the baby frequently grows up to be irresponsible, charming and with a sense of entitlement.

Famous youngest children: Jim Carrey, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Ross Perot, Edward Kennedy and Rosie O’Donnell

Having gone through it twice, Seither feels it’s important for parents and educators to understand the differences among children with different birth order positions. “Birth order is huge,” she says, “and helps us realize why kids have the behavior tendencies they do.”

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Tags: personality spacing

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