A person's gender, age, place of birth, accent, manners, etc., are the matters people take into account when describing or evaluating an individual. Birth order appears to be one of these matters as well. Birth order, as used in this paper, indicates a child's place in the family. Birth order has an advantage of being easier to check than other characteristics. This type of study makes it possible to ask a person about their siblings without offending or taking too much of their time. Some individuals tend to determine the birth order of others simply by observing their behavior. Parents have a tendency of stereotyping their children according to their birth order. Thus, birth order brings up variations in the way the parents treat their children. Differences in parental attitudes and behaviors, in turn, greatly influence a child's personality. Parental attitudes and behaviors refer to the way parents treat their children with regard to a child's birth order. Although birth order and parental attitudes and behaviors tend to influence a child's personality, a child's place in the family does not explain everything about that child. Whether a child happens to be a firstborn, a lastborn, or somewhere in between, parents need to become aware of stereotyping by looking beyond it, and attempting to treat each child equally and uniquely.
In today's society parents pay different amounts of attention and attend differently to children of opposing birth order. Parents have distinct expectations for each of their offspring's. A study done by Spitze and Logan showed that parental attitudes towards their children may be affected by their number, gender, and birth order. These factors also 2
influence the closeness the child feels towards his parents. Furthermore, the study shows that as the number of siblings increases in the family the oldest and youngest children tend to be closer to their parents than the middle children (Spitze and Logan 871).
Parents also tend to have higher expectations for their oldest children than for children of any other birth order. New parents do not have much experience when they have their first child and therefore tend to be extremely strict with them. They want to be the "perfect" parents, setting and example for their firstborn so that he, in turn, would set a good example for later-borns. Not only do parents set high expectations on their oldest children, but they also look for children to satisfy all of their expectations. Differences in achievements are due to parental expectations. The study suggested that future achievements are influenced by differences in parental treatment with regard to birth order. Bradley and Mims state: "They [parents] also treat oldest children in the family differently from the ways they treat subsequent children. . . in our society, first-born children occupy higher status, higher pay, and higher power occupations" (Bradley and Mims 447). High parental expectations become a problem when their first-born develops a low self-esteem due to the fact that he is unable to satisfy all of the expectations set on him. The child may not realize that his parents might expect more than he can handle, creating a slow deterioration of his self confidence and self belief.
Likewise, parents tend to be extremely overprotective with their first child. In another discussion by Forer, the author states that "parents are usually more tense and anxious when the first child is born than they will be with later children because they are 3
uncertain of their ability to care for a child. Their inexperience may cause them to expect more of their first child than they will expect of later children" (Forer 97). And so the first child immediately becomes the "crown prince" or "crown princess" of the family (Forer 97). He becomes used to having the undivided love and attention from his parents.
Later when Mommy and Daddy bring home a "wrinkled...
Bibliography: Baskett, Linda Musun. "Sibling Status Effects: Adult Expectations." Developmental Psychology 21 (1985): 441-445.
Gabriel, H. Paul. The Inner Child. New York: Time, 1990.
Leman, Kevin. Growing Up Firstborn: The Pressure and Privilege of Being Number One. New York: Delacorte Press, 1989.
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