The Social Birth Order Theory

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The Social Birth Order Theory

In the world of psychology, nature versus nurture is a common theme theorists attribute to differences in the personalities of children. However, there may be other influences that have greater impact early in life. When it comes to the disposition of a person, the order in which they were born within a family leaves an ineffaceable effect. A child’s inclination toward certain personality traits can be the result of their inherent position within their family.

Many famous psychologists theorize about and study the effects of family birth order among siblings. The most renowned psychologist in the world, Sigmund Freud, broke away from a group of his original psychoanalysts due to a dispute about birth order (Webspace). The leader of those contradicting him was a Austrian Medical Doctor named Alfred Adler who lived from 1870 through 1937.. Adler’s studies on birth order are what he is best known for (Webspace). Adler had a social standpoint on the birth order theory and many other theorists disputed his view with biological standpoints of their own (Bnet).

The main difference between Adler and other psychologists was that he believed his theories were “heuristic” (Webspace). He knew that they were helpful in understanding people, but not scientific actualities (Webspace). He was more open minded compared to Freud and recognized the impact of internal as well as external factors in each patient’s life. He knew that how a person perceived their own position in their family was just as influential as their actual birth order (Stein). Adler was the first theorist to credit a patient’s brothers and sisters for having an influence on their early life and development (Webspace).

The positions within the sibling group were categorized into only, first, second, middle, and youngest children. Each associated character trait appears in the child only if they view themselves as having that position in the family. For example, a second child may act as an oldest child if their older sibling has been away at college and is no longer living in the house. Adler recognized that each position created different environments and expectations for each child.

Only child are socially dominant. These children are used to being the center of attention and strive to make others focus primarily on them (Stein). Children growing up without any siblings seem to mature relatively faster, and relate better to adults (Webspace). The lack of constant companionship can also lead them to be introverted and many prefer to deal with issues by themselves (Stein). When channeled into self-confidence, this introverted tendency can create independent leaders who know how to be successful on their own without guidance from others.

Children who have already developed their personality before their siblings are born can exhibit similar traits. When single children do not get their own way they feel unfairly treated (CDI). When interacting in environments outside their immediate family, they have problems sharing with others and can become spoiled (Webspace). Studies show that only children have the most problems with close relationships and the lowest need for affiliation (Bnet).

Slightly similar to only children, those born first in the family can become authoritarian. If they accept their role as responsible for younger siblings, they often become good leaders (Webspace). They also often score the highest on intelligence tests, and many are precocious (Webspace). The number of first-born National Merit Scholarship winners was found to equal the number of second- and third-born winners combined (BNet). Studies have consistently linked first-born children and academic success (BNet). Additionally, first born children are overrepresented in Congress and among U.S. Presidents (BNet). Humphrey Bogart, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis were all first born in their families (Webspace)....
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