How Birth Order Affects Your Child’s Personality

Children with ABC mat

Researchers believe that birth order is just as important as gender and almost as important as genetics when it comes to your child’s personality. Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist who studied birth order since 1967 and author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are, shares that in most cases, the first born and second born in a family are as different as night and day in the way they behave and react to the things around them.

Childhood experts such as Meri Wallace, a child and family therapist with over 20 years’ experience and author of Birth Order Blues, agree with Dr. Leman on the connection between birth order and personality. Wallace further explained that up to a certain extent, this link could be attributed to the way parents relate to their child based on his/her standing in the family among siblings. To add on to that, other experts found that children’s personalities are also shaped based on the way they change their behaviour to get their parents’ attention.

So, what traits and behaviour can you expect from your children based on their “rank” in the family? Let’s take a quick look at some common traits, as observed by experts:

The First Born Child

Due to the fact that they had so much control and attention from their first-time parents who raised them “by the book”, firstborns can be described as “the responsible one” and “the careful one”. In simpler terms, firstborns are almost like a miniature version of their parents as they try to dominate their siblings.

Experts agree that firstborns like “being in charge” and are very confident about everything. However, they might also experience a sense of loss with the arrival of a younger sibling as all of the attention that was exclusively theirs must now be shared.

Some common traits of firstborns include:

  • Reliable
  • Conscientious
  • Structured
  • Cautious
  • Controlling
  • Achiever

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The Middle Child

While they can be cooperative and flexible, middle children can also be competitive and are concerned with fairness. According to Wallace, the middle child often feels left out and a sense of ‘Well, I’m not the oldest. I’m not the youngest. Who am I?’. This form of hierarchical floundering leads middle children to pick a close circle of friends to represent their extended family and it is here that they find the attention that is lacking from their own parents, as this is often shifted to the firstborn or baby of the family.

Middle children will never excel in the same areas as their older sibling and their personality traits will be the opposite of their eldest and youngest siblings.

Thus, middle children tend to be:

  • Somewhat rebellious
  • People pleasers
  • Ones who thrive on friendships and have a large social circle
  • Peacemakers


What qualities can you expect from the baby of the family and the only child? More on this on the next page.


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