Wellness Matters NewsletterAn Experience in Creative Journaling

Courtesy of Life Esteem, Published by Simmonds Publications

First Born,
Middle Child or
Last Born?

The Influence of Birth Order on
Our Behavior and Relationships

If brothers and sisters are raised by the same parents, how do they end up so different? How is it that one sibling grows up to be successful academically and professionally but with few friends, while another becomes the athlete with loads of friends? To the degree that one of the siblings is a responsible person, another will be attention-seeking or rebellious. One will be tied into the ways of the parents and another will look outside the family for support. The strategies we learn in childhood for dealing with our parents and siblings has a lasting influence on our behavior, often in ways we barely recognize.

The world of the first born child is very different from that of the second born, and if a third comes along he or she will carve out territory within the family system which differs from the first two. This is not to say that these patterns are carved in stone: there are always exceptions to the rules. For example, if the first two children are born close together and third child comes along much later, the last born may have characteristics resembling the first born. The sex of the children and physical differences can also make for deviations from the general patterns, as can the birth order of the parents and the nature of the relationship between the parents. And, of course, two families who come together through the remarriage of the parents (the blended family) can create all sorts of interesting combinations. Researchers have been interested in birth order for nearly a century now, but it is only within the past two or three decades that much has been learned about the influence of birth order on our behavior, as well as the nature of relationships with our partners.


Consider two parents, probably newly married, who have their first child. They are determined to be the best parents in the world, and they dote on the child, give the child an abundance of attention, and try to show just how responsible they are. They want to be perfect and they want the child to be perfect -- and it's also a lesson the child learns well. First borns often grow up with perfectionistic tendencies and they strive for approval and success in the adult world. The second child usually doesn't get nearly the attention received by the older sibling, and, deviating from the pattern already established by the first born, will often go outside of the family constellation as they grow up. The support of their friends becomes more important than the tug of the parents. By the time the last born child comes along, the parents have loosened up considerably in their child-rearing practices and tend to indulge this child -- so the baby in the family, having learned of his or her special status, can grow up to be attention seeking, perhaps manipulative, people-oriented and a charmer.

The First Born

While parents of the first newborn are usually responsible and diligent, they are also tentative, anxious and inconsistent -- and to make up for this they may be demanding, strict, and overprotective. It has been shown that first borns talk and walk before children who are born later. As first borns grow up, these precocious abilities remain: They are the ones who go on to succeed in the world. They get higher grades in school and have higher leadership and achievement traits. They are conscientious, organized, dependable, accommodating, and persistent. While some first borns have a strong need for approval, so that they grow up pleasing people and taking care of others (often being taken advantage of in the process), other first borns are high achievers, hard driven and ruthless.



This newsletter is intended to offer general information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from these broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problems.

La Jolla, CA 92037

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