May 29, 2015

How Birth Order Affects Personality and Relationships

This study had been done time and time again, and there are plenty of articles on the internet, and even books! However, it is a topic that I was deeply interested in because I noticed a pattern growing up where the oldest child (like me) tended to be more responsible, mature, grown up, while the youngest (like my sister), tended to be popular, outgoing, and carefree.

To actually read about it and discover why this trend exists, helped me understand why I and my sister are so different. We grew up in the same house, yet she was all sports and parties, and I was all music and staying in. It seemed as if she was the popular girl and I was the loser (if we were to be stereotyped).

But what was more interesting was that birth order can affect relationships, and to discover that my husband and I fit what psychologists consider one of the best long-term relationship combos: Firstborn with Lastborn. I was firstborn, he was last (he has three older sisters).

According to one study of three thousand families, the odds for a happy marriage increase a great deal when the first born hooks up with the last born. What is at work here is the opposites-attract-and-are-good-for-each-other factor. The first born teaches the last born little things that may be lacking, such as being organized and having goals, while the last born helps the first born lighten up and not take an overly serious approach to life.
According to the researchers, the best possible match you can find is the first-born female and the last-born male. (source)

Now I know with all studies, there are always exceptions, but I started noticing that a lot of pairings are like this, and hey it makes sense! Opposites attract and when you take that birth order affects personality, well it usually comes down to personality when finding your partner (unless you are really shallow and only care about looks or money). But just because you don't fit what is considered the best pairing, doesn't mean your relationship is doomed:

You can’t change your actual birth order, but you can change the way you think about your role in the family. Sounds like pretty good news, especially if you felt doomed to a life of presumed middle-child insignificance. (source)

Once again it comes down to stereotypes, and these stereotypes are a result of parenting. It is because firstborns are seen as older, more mature, more capable, that they are given more responsibility in the family and are also often the ones to take the punishment: "you're older, you should know better." Eldest children are pushed harder, while the youngest are seen as "babies." Mom and dad will do anything for the "baby" in the family. They tend to be more spoiled, and as a result end up lacking responsibility, are more carefree/careless because they think someone else will fix their mistakes.

The moral of the story for parents is to look for your own biases and stereotypes about birth order as you think about what your children are capable of doing. Encourage them to teach each other, to define their own identities in the family, and to avoid labeling themselves based on their birth order. Don’t let the lives of your children be dominated by the random forces that caused them to be born when they were. (source)

This is true. Parents need to become aware of how they are treating their children and stop stereotyping them based on their birth order/age. I think eldest children everywhere should never have to hear the "you're older you should know better" lecture. The youngest is just as responsible, and you are only hurting them by not teaching them that their actions have consequences. It can't always be the big sister or big brother's fault.

Sources:

Attribution: Image used in blog post photo does not belong to me and was found on Pexels. 

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