Whether you’re an only child or the oldest sibling, there are personality traits that are stereotypical to your birth order.

Children without any siblings are typically said to be spoiled and constantly crave attention, whereas firstborn children are found to perform well in leadership positions in their adult life.

Starting with Alfred Adler, research on the correlation between birth order and personality types has been carried out for over 30 years and despite there being common traits across various studies; some psychologists still argue that the order of birth doesn’t actually affect our development at all.

One of the main theories as to why birth order matters is that the children must adopt different techniques and roles in order to win their parents affection, due to the divided attention amongst multiple children.

Parenting expert Michael Grose explains it best, “We’re in a Darwinian struggle from the moment we’re born, fighting for scarce resources within a family – our parents’ time, love and affection.” [1]

So what has the research actually determined?

The oldest child is usually said to be achievement-oriented and eager to be first in all situations. A 2012 paper [2] summarising recent studies claimed that first-borns were most likely to gain and hold leadership roles over their sibling counterparts.

First-borns are also more likely to experience a lot of attention over their “firsts”, such as first words, first steps, etc as they’re the first time the parent is experiencing these milestones, causing them to want to seek approval in their later years.[1]

Oldest siblings are overachievers, so it isn’t surprising that the legal profession is swarming with first-borns, along with the fact that a lot of world leaders are first-born children. It does have a negative side, however, with first-borns being prone to jealousy, anxiety and defensiveness since they’re the only sibling to experience a parent’s full undivided attention and then have to share it later on in their childhood.

According to Darwinian theory, the middle child is neither the precious first or the vulnerable youngest, so lucks out when it comes to the birth order lottery. The middle child is often noted to be the peace keeper who makes compromises and negotiates as is stuck between the other two.

Due to this, they’re often good at connecting with people both older and younger than them and are said to be friendlier, more faithful and loyal. Being in the middle, the child is said to be more relaxed without the pressure of being the first or last child – also meaning they may lack competitive drive.

Finally, the youngest child’s personality is said to be vastly different from their other siblings. Due to the changing nature of parenthood from the oldest to the youngest child, the youngest is said to be more rebellious, attention-seeking and creative by nature.

As the parents become more comfortable and relaxed, having been through the process already, the youngest child may feel as though they don’t get the attention they deserve and perhaps that they perceive the older child receives.

Therefore, the youngest child may adopt a social and outgoing persona in order to gain the attention they need, possibly even resorting to manipulation to get what they want.

Whilst birth order does seem to have an impact on the personality of siblings, other factors must be considered such as temperament, gender, age gap, genetics, parenting and environment.

There are comparisons to be made amongst different-age-same-gender siblings such as more competition than different-gender siblings and whilst these studies help us gain understanding into the birth order personality types, they’re not a fixed state and as we grow into our adult lives, we may shift away from the people we were as children.


  1. https://www.abc.net.au
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com

Copyright © 2012-2024 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

power of misfits book banner desktop

Like what you are reading? Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss new thought-provoking articles!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Dr. pankaj biraris

    I will agree with you christina.
    But as you mentioned some other factors needed to be consider especially parenting and environment, actually plays more significant role in the development of the personality of the child..
    For example, 1: Mahatma Gandhi, who was the youngest child.
    2: Adolf hitler, even though fourth child among 6 siblings, but all three siblings elder than him actually died in their infancy, so we can consider him eldest one…

    1. M Paz Greene F

      Well, it didn’t work out in the areas and colours we wishedfor, but Adolf Hitler surely was an overachiever.

  2. Pooja

    I have something more to add to this. I dont know if its right or wrong. I thinks parents also dont know how to behave with first child. So what they learn from first, helps them for next children.Because of this untrained parents, first child has to fight a lot with parents and that leads to first children having more issues with parents. Is there any way to conform this??

    1. Karin

      I am the first of 3. Always needed to fight for everything. I never was good enough. I could learn very good but even the highest numbers weren’t good enough etc. etc. My whole life, I will be 50 within a few weeks, I felt like the lesser person in our family due to that. Always humiliated. Not only by my mother but later on also by siblings. Have been in therapy for this and my psychologist told me that the first child (daughter/mother, son/father) often has the most issues with the parents. I my case… I have no contact with my family anymore after I immigrated some years ago.

  3. Sohaib

    Well, In our part of the world, the younger is always the most loved by his/her parents, which usually turns him into a stubborn and always demanding child. Being younger also free him from a lot of responsibilities as compared to the eldest one. So the younger ones are not attention seeking or all that.

  4. Ryan Anon

    I am a youngest, then an only then an oldest.I’m not sure where I fit in with regard to this article. I feel like the positive items of each fit me but then again it could be like a astrology or Chinese calendar character discription where you read the good parts and ignore any bad parts. All and all I’m a pretty lucky guy 🙂

  5. Shawn Williams

    As said prior, so much of a child’s development has to do with the parents’ displayed behavior. The child will learn and process what is presented to her/him
    S. Williams,LCSWR

  6. Devender Ravi Anand

    I agree with the findings shared by Christina and can relate to it myself. I am the middle child, am the 2nd of 3 brothers in my family. I can say that the findings are almost accurate if not perfectly accurate, as the underlying premise of the article is Human Psyche or Behaviour which is very much subjective and changes as per time, place and circumstances.

    Nevertheless, the findings mentioned cannot be undermined/ruled out/belittled in any manner. It is a commendable research. Would like to read more on this topic, I would appreciate if you could share the details of the thesis or actual report for further referencing.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Best Regards,
    Devender Ravi Anand (Dev)

  7. Garry

    As a middle child I was expecting more description about my type but it was insufficient for me. Nevertheless, good effort…

Leave a Reply