Birth order may not be the be-all and end-all when it comes to sibling personality traits, but it definitely plays a factor.
The italicised text below is lifted directly from an article I read in 2015 on birth order and sibling traits that stuck with me as it described me and my siblings to a tee. I am cognisant that this may not be true for every family, but I am a typical firstborn, my sister is a typical middle child and my brother is a typical last born.
Being the oldest child in the family means going through a lot of firsts — and quite possibly failures — before future siblings come along.
First step. First word. First time-out.
The oldest children are often put through experimentation or test phases, when parents are still trying to figure out the goals they have for their children. While oldest children may have had a more strict — or at least watchful — upbringing, it also means they received a lot of attention because they had their parents all to themselves, Khadijah B. Watkins, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, tells Yahoo Health.
As a result, firstborns command more attention and approval from peers and colleagues and are more in tune with their surroundings.
Many world leaders are firstborn kids who are typically more driven and motivated, Watkins says. They are also extremely competitive, confident, organized, and strive for greatness.
A Norwegian study found that firstborns had a slightly higher IQ than middle or younger siblings, supporting the fact that they want to excel at everything they do, from landing a successful job to simply planning a vacation.
Are you an oldest child? You’re probably…
- Rule keepers
The Middle Child
It’s not always easy being the Jan Brady of the family, constantly reaching for a tiny spot in the limelight.
Middle children are often caught between the wiser, more experienced older child and the coddled, energetic youngest child. “As the middle sibling, you have to stick up for yourself and get crafty to get your needs met,” says Watkins. They’re forced to get creative in how they advocate themselves.
Most middle children tend to be social and surround themselves with friends and colleagues for support, which make them great networkers and entrepreneurs.
They aren’t going to argue or compete with the older or younger sibling, Watkins says. Middle children will adapt to any situation and try to mediate and act as a peacemaker during rocky situations.
Are you a middle child? You’re probably…
- Excellent negotiators
- People pleaser
The last-born sibling — also known as the “baby” of the family — enters into the familial hierarchy at the bottom of the pyramid, but is typically the most spoiled of all the siblings.
By the time parents have their last child, they know the drill — changing diapers is a piece of cake and teaching their child how to ride a bike is second nature.
Parents are also more lenient about certain things and tend to intensify how much they coddle, spoil, and protect the youngest child. Last-borns start becoming familiar with people doing things for them, so they are typically more demanding and impatient when things don’t go their way.
Youngest children often want their own way in life and seek to tailor things toward their wants and needs, says Watkins.
“They’re always questioning the system and asking why things need to be that way,” Watkins says.
This rebellious attitude also leads them to be more free-spirited, outgoing, and prone to taking more risks.
Like firstborns, last-borns also tends to be highly motivated and driven. They’re competitive as well, but in most cases, they won’t directly compete with their siblings – they’re more likely to take a different course or even move to a new geographic location, Watkins tells Yahoo Health.
And youngest children know when to throw out a good joke or two — a recent study found that last-borns are more funny and easygoing compared to their older brothers and sisters.
Are you a youngest child? You’re probably…
- Risk taker
An Only Child
No siblings? No problem.
Only children may get an (unfair) characterization as being lonely and extra self-involved. But research actually shows they possess cooperativeness, leadership, and emotional stability at the same levels as those with siblings. And they also aren’t lonely, especially when you consider the fact that “lonely” is not the same thing as “comfortable with solitude.”
Plus, since they received the uncontested attention of their parents, only children tend to have a strong sense of identity and self-esteem.
Exceptions to traditional birth order structure include blended families, families within families e.g. twins, gap children and adoption.
If I am to be honest I struggled with today’s post and only decided to go ahead with it yesterday evening because my brother and I have barely talked all year and it feels wrong to write about siblings when you have not spoken to one in months. We have not had the easiest relationship with my brother because our temperaments are rather similar so we tend to butt heads every now and then. Plus he was always eating my food in the fridge and that shit annoys the fuck out of me. If there is one thing I was very excited about moving to my own place is knowing that I would come home to find my leftovers exactly as I left them.
While my sister and I have had a much easier relationship, barring when we were young and fought badly, we also had quite the superficial relationship. For most of our lives our conversations were centred on superficial stuff like music videos and TV shows. I have always been closer with my friends than with my siblings and as I got older I started to realise that my siblings and I do not have that close bond that I see, for example, with the Hadid siblings. For a very long time I wondered about this and one day I brought it up with my therapist and she revealed that it is common for children who come from dysfunctional homes not to have a close bond. While I always knew I come from a dysfunctional home that was the first time someone had ever verbalised it to me and it really hit hard.
My BFF once told me that the death of their mother really brought her and her sisters so much closer but the same cannot be said for me and my siblings. While my sister and I have gotten closer and have more sincere conversations nowadays, my brother does not speak to both of us. Last year I had dinner with my siblings where we discussed, among other things, what to do for our mum’s one year anniversary. It was a really shitty dinner that ended with my brother making me cry, which made my sister declare that the best way to honour our mum is by getting along and being there for each other, not ati going upcountry for a memorial.
Am I sad that my brother does not speak to his sisters? Absolutely. Today’s feature image may be in jest but there is a lot of truth to it, especially now with our mum gone as I truly feel responsible for my siblings in the way a parent would. I check in with my sister quite often but the only thing I know about my brother is that he is not dead 😐 Which really hurts my heart but it is his choice not to reach out and I cannot force him to let us be there for him. Sometimes people choose their own direction and you just have to let them take it, even when you believe it is not the right path.