Birth Order

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Birth Order and Its Effect on Personality

Reed Hooks

Adolescent Development & Cognition
Dr. Ken Springer
Spring 2006

On my honor I neither gave nor received any aid on this work.
Birth order affects the human personality, mind and path of life from infancy through emerging adulthood. Depending on one's placement, first, middle, or last, a lot can be understood. Dr. Kevin Leman, author of The Birth Order Book, says he could pick out an oldest child nine out of ten times by just looking at them. Often but not always, the characteristics of a person's birth order match them very well. But this is not to say that there are not exceptions. No person is bound to certain traits just because of their placement. Yet in the psychological field, doctors are discovering more and more that most people connect remarkably to the behaviors of others in their same birth order. The first, middle and last child have characteristics that grow and develop due to their placement, and this shapes their personalities. Birth order cannot explain everything about the human mind and behavior, but it can give people a clue as to how environments are altered by the order of birth and contribute to personality in various ways. The firstborn child adolescents are one of the easiest to pick out. They are often "perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list makers, well organized, critical, serious, and scholarly" in an academic setting (Leman, 1984, p.11). "In their role as surrogate parents, firstborns may overemphasize the importance of law and order" and they often "understand better the importance of power and authority" (Sulloway, 1996, p.55). Chances are the firstborn: feels guilty easily, is placating, believes justice is people getting what they deserve, asks questions to orient self, is emotionally unexpressive, [and] displays a shaming type of humor, avoids offending others, daydreams about accomplishing things, is out of touch with self, is unable to connect with others, is a better leader than manager of people, is compromising, and wants to impress" (Isaacson and Radish, 2002, p. 73).

They have to deal with many challenges in childhood such as overcoming the loss of love to a new baby and winning that love back, which affects them through adolescence. In order to cope with failure and disappointment they suppress these emotions. With parents during adolescence, they tend to be demanding and competitive but have a flat and passive expression of emotion. In the life of a firstborn there is a period of time in which they are an only child, and in one study parents with their firstborn reported higher levels of stress than more experienced parents (Putter, 2003). This stress in parents commonly leads to overprotection of the firstborn which can have an influence on the fact that firstborns have a higher rate of depression during adolescence. Frequently they are easily angered by a lack of respect and attempt to mask it with their shaming humor and sarcasm. Firstborn adolescents often understand each other and are frequently understood by second, third and fourth born adolescents as well. Spiritually, they thrive from a loving community and enjoy relational settings. All this reflects the fact that most firstborns are extroverted adolescents. Psychologists and medical doctors have even managed to identify their driving style, which is cautious, like as though other drivers are jeopardizing their safety. Often firstborns find themselves listening only to others and not to themselves which may be a result of the firstborn's loss of love and their struggle to regain it. This supports their success in peer groups and how firstborn adolescents have a want to impress or please (Isaacson, 2002).

During emerging adulthood, firstborn children fit into jobs geared for their personalities. "Genius appears to occur among first-born children with a disproportionate frequency" (Thurstone and Jenkins, 1931,...
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