10 Things You Didn't Know About Birth Order Theory

It’s fascinating how each one of us humans has a personality that is uniquely our own. We’re born to be different and this complexity has long baffled experts how we entirely end up being our unique selves. 

Science says we can attribute this to nature. Mother nature made us biologically distinct, with every human designed to a unique DNA make-up. Even identical twins, who are developed from one zygote, aren’t genetically one and the same. We can also attribute our distinctiveness to nurture. We are born from different parents, who also have their own identities. Add up the factors like where, when, or how we were raised, and these are only among the things that influence who we are.

There is a whole gamut of studies exploring the complications of human character, one being the birth order theory. This school of thought characterizes a person based on the order one is born. First-borns are bossy, middle children are rebellious, and youngest children are highly indulged—you heard of these stereotypes. But are any of these characterizations scientifically proven? Here are a few more things you might still don’t know about birth order and personality.

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10 The Gist Of The Theory

According to its proponent, Alfred Alder, first-borns are more likely to be successful and responsible, given the parents’ meticulous attention them. Once the middle child comes in, the parents have less time and resources, therefore providing the middle child diminished attention compared to the eldest. 

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This shapes middle children to be people-pleasers and rebels as they strive to carve out attention from their parents. As the youngest child is born, parents have gained plenty of parenting experience and become more lenient, hence making the last-born free-spirited and outgoing. Only children are more likely a mix of first-born and last-born.

9 It’s Nearly A Hundred Years Old

Birth order theory was developed by Austrian physician and psychometrician Alfred Alder—the man behind the idea of inferiority complex and individual psychology. He was the first to argue that different positions in a family contribute to the way parents shape their kids’ behavior.

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Studying the effects of birth order can be tricky, as there are a lot of factors to consider. Family size is one of the most critical. As the number of children increases, the less parental resources (like money, time, and attention) are left for later-borns compared to the first-borns. Sibling death, parents’ relationship, gender roles, and parent death and divorce are also factors to consider. Apart from behavior, birth order is as well being correlated to success, health and violence studies, among others.

8 It’s Still Unproven

Although there’s already a plethora of research that explored birth order influence, it remains to be what it is—a theory. Experts still find its claims inconclusive, that it doesn’t really put a person to a certain mold specific to their birth ranking. In fact, birth order theory was once touted by an expert as a “zombie theory”—one that comes back from the dead, despite being refuted time and again.

This conventional wisdom has been around for a handful of decades, notwithstanding the lack of scientific evidence. Now, it has become a perennial topic in pop psychology. While still widely unproven, several studies have established some aspects of this theory as scientifically true—which we will talk about later on.

7 Birth Order Matching

While it’s been said that opposites attract, it doesn’t necessarily ring true when birth order theory is concerned.

Chances are, two people who share the same birth order are more likely to get along. One study shows that first-borns are more well-acquainted with fellow first-borns, and the same respect goes to only children and middle- and last-borns.

First-born couples could be a powerhouse couple as both strive for perfection and dominance. Middle-children couples may have an upper-hand among other birth rankings as their relationships tend to be healthier, with both being peacemakers. Last-borns can be thick as thieves when it comes to fun since they are carefree and creative. While classified to be either like first- and last-borns, only children can fit like a glove with middle children.

6 Birth Order & Health

Sibling health has also been widely correlated to birth order in hundreds of studies. Different researchers found that most first-borns, being overly protected by their first-time parents, are more likely to develop more allergies compared to their younger siblings. However, first-borns are less likely to develop high blood pressure among all birth orders.

Middle children, meanwhile, tend to have lesser body mass index and are less susceptible to type 2 diabetes, although more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome. Youngest children are also less likely to develop allergies and diabetes but are more prone to substance abuse. They are also more prone to have addictive personalities.

5 First-Borns Really Have Higher IQ

Consistent with Alder’s theory, first-borns are scientifically proven to be more intelligent compared to their younger siblings. A recent study confirmed that first-borns excel their siblings by one IQ point, and this study, to date, is considered the largest research that investigates on the effects of birth order.

RELATED: Another Study Confirms Firstborn Kids Are Smarter Than Younger Siblings

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studied over 300,000 high school students and they also found out that there were consistent differences in behavior among first-borns compared to later-borns. Eldest children were proved to be more extroverted, conscientious, and less anxious, though the correlation was only “infinitesimally small.”

Notably, while the results were statistically significant, it’s practically not that telling, experts warned. Meaning, the one-IQ-point advantage doesn’t relevantly cement first-borns to the upper echelon.

4 Well In The Middle

Middle children are expected to carve out their niche as they already have someone ahead of them. With lesser focus and attention, most middle children are said to be “lost” in identifying who they are. First-borns are the leaders of the pack while the last-borns are the most precious babies, so naturally, the question for them is who they are in the family.

RELATED: The Middle Child: 15 Ways Birth Order Decides How The Baby Will Be

As a result, middle children grow up to be creative in seeking attention. They thrive mostly on friendships and as peacemakers, more inclined to be good negotiators. Middle-borns are well-adjusted and can be highly competitive. They are also good leaders as they know how to compromise. Interestingly, 52 percent of U.S. presidents are middle children. Politicians, CEOs (Bill Gate, as an example), Olympians, and authors are also most likely middle-borns.

3 Last But Not Least

As parents have more and more children, their parenting ways get more loose and relaxed. They tend to stray away from by-the-book parenting and become less stringent, resulting in a more carefree last-born who tend to get away with things.

Although they can be mostly spoiled, most last-borns tend to feel left out because of the sparse attention they receive from parents with multiple children. With this, last-borns are more likely to become attention-seekers and self-centered.

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Often, last-borns can also be charming and manipulative, and they could be the most humorous among the siblings. They are also more likely to become entrepreneurs, thanks to their innate desire to pave their own path.

2 The Super First-Borns

Only children are technically first- and last-borns, so in effect, they can be a mix of the two. They have 200% of attention from their parents and do not have to compete for any other resources. In effect, only children tend to be super first-borns, who are extremely perfectionists and can be mature for their age.

RELATED: The Ups & Downs of Having an Only Child

Since they usually spend time alone, only children are deemed to be self-entertainers. They are also the most creative out of all the birth orders. Like first-borns, only children are diligent and conscientious.

1 Twins Are Considered One Unit

Identifying who truly is the older twin can be tricky, especially in Caesarean births. In vaginal births, the more mature twin stays lower in the uterus but the position can change in some circumstances, so to say one twin is older than another (based on who came out of the womb first) can be inaccurate at times. If twins have an older sibling, they tend to go as second children altogether. If twins are the oldest, they will display some first-born traits and may interchange dominance traits as they grow older. Therefore, each of them may assume both traits of first- and later-born.

Studies proved that as gap among siblings is less, the more there is competition among them. This is particularly true among twins. Although twins’ bond is undeniably deep, they can be competitive of their parents’ attention.

NEXT: 20 Ways A Baby's Birth Order Affects Their Personality (And Even Behavior)

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