If you’ve ever escaped out of your home through a window with a sheet tied to a bed post, you either had a burning home or an older brother. If you’ve ever taken a cold bath because you’re the second person to use the grimy water, then you probably have a disconnect notice from the water company or an older sister. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced a house fire and our water was never disconnected, but I do have an older brother and an older sister. I never got the joy of chasing a bratty little sister out of the house and I wasn’t privileged enough to get the warm, clean water first. “I’m the baby, gotta love me!” This post is dedicated to my awesome siblings who I like a whole lot more now than I used to. I’ll include some stories from our childhood and also take a closer look at birth order and its supposed effect on personality and how it applies to our family.
With my siblings: Dave, Steph, and Lisa (me, the baby)
According to http://www.birthorders.com, “Birth order is one of the most important things making you unique. While other factors, such as age, race, and gender, all play a role in shaping personality, research indicates that the number one factor influencing personality is birth order. Birth order is defined as your rank in your sibling constellation: first born, middle born, last born, only child, or twin.”
First born children usually want to be in control. They feel like the leader of the pack and try to take on that role. This is somewhat true for the oldest in our family, my brother, Dave. The following is the clearest example of this I can think of. Like all parents, my mother really valued the video camera when we were kids. This was especially true at Christmastime. Each year, before we were allowed to open presents, Mom made us stand in all our awkwardness and sing Christmas carols in front of the Christmas tree. Horribly pitchy singing, with only half correct lyrics was our ticket to presents. Dave always picked the songs. Not only did he pick the songs, he sang them the loudest and with the most force. The videos are now our proof of this. Even though he’ll likely swear this isn’t true, the footage clearly shows him pushing my sister and me out of the way to be in the camera’s spotlight. The oldest siblings generally value being right. Again, this is very true for Dave. He cannot stand to be wrong. In fact, if he is wrong, he can usually find a way to convince you that he was “sort of” right. Dave has always been wonderful with young children. Babies love him! This too, is a common characteristic of first borns, since they grew up with babies in their homes. Now, there are also some ways in which the first born in our family does not match up with the textbook first child. According to research, firstborn children are usually eager to please and don’t often get in trouble. To this, I say, “hahahaha!” No one child in America was ever in trouble more than my brother. He stayed in trouble! Dave was a very mischievous kid and was always doing just the right thing to have him at odds with Mom and Dad.
According to Psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman, “Whatever personality trait has been adopted by the first born child, the second child will become the opposite.” This is completely true for my sister, the middle child, Stephany. Whereas Dave was always looking for trouble, Steph was always trying to avoid it. There has never been a child alive who was more eager to please than her. Steph has always excelled at any and all things scholastic. An example of this is that once she was in school, she would worry so much about her homework that she would get out of bed at night to make sure that her work that she had already diligently completed was safe and secure in her backpack and ready to be turned in the next day. Another common understanding amongst middle children is the, “middle child syndrome.” This happens because the middle child feels stuck in between the oldest who gets to do everything first and the baby who gets attention because they’re the last child the parents will have. It’s especially common in a family of three children. I’ve heard Steph complain of middle child syndrome many times. People who claim to experience middle child syndrome are usually independent, inventive, and adaptable. Stephany is all of those things for sure! Middle children often play the role of peace keeper in the family. Again, this is completely like Steph. When we were children, my brother loved to terrorize us, as brothers often do their sisters. Steph would always devise a plan to keep the two of us out of his reach. More than once, Steph and I have pushed our dresser in front of our bedroom door to keep Dave out. After all, if he wasn’t around us, then we didn’t have to worry about fighting and arguing. One common trait amongst middle children that Steph doesn’t have, however, is that many middle children often lash out and are disagreeable with younger siblings. This couldn’t be less true for her. Steph has always been my protector and was never negative towards me.
Now, it’s time to assess myself, the baby or youngest child. I’m going to be as objective and honest as possible when I’m assessing myself; If I’m not my siblings will surely let me know about it anyway. The youngest child often expects others to make decisions and take responsibility. This is definitely true for me. I do not like to step up to the plate to take the lead as I always feel confident someone else can do it better. The youngest in the family often feels small and like they can’t be taken seriously. Again, this is very true. My siblings love to point out my many spelling and mathematical errors, and to be fair, I do make it easy for them. I know that if I make a mistake, they’ll catch it very quickly. Youngest children are often opinionated, believe they are always right, and like to challenge the status quo. The vast majority of my run-ins with my parents growing up were because I refused to accept their answers and reasoning and would try to argue with them. I have to have the last word and am terrible at biting my tongue, even though sometimes that’s what’s best. Leman says, “The last born is the one who will probably still have a pet name although he’s 29 and has a master’s degree.” Well, I’m 24 and have a bachelor’s degree and the nickname of “Pig” that I’ve had since birth. Another common trait is that babies of the family are usually social and outgoing. While I do consider myself to be social and outgoing amongst people I already know, I am not comfortable introducing myself in a group of new people.
My husband Brian, the only child as a baby with his uncle. He has always loved to read.
Now, you might have already thought, “Yeah, but what about an only child?” Well, I feel qualified to speak of that, too, because I married one. I obviously didn’t grow up with Brian, but I certainly know him well now and can definitely see many ways that being an only child has shaped his personality. Only children are often perfectionists and are comfortable with responsibility. Brian is most certainly both of those things. He stresses so much about work that he will lie in bed at night and analyze every detail of his day to be sure that he did his absolute best for each patient he saw that day. He is also confident and feels driven to be the best at everything. If he does not completely master a task, then he feels as if he has failed it. Another common truism amongst only children is that they do not take criticism well because they did not grow up with siblings to point out their flaws. Again, this is completely like Brian. When I tell him he doesn’t take criticism well, he always gets offended and says, “Yes, I do!”, thus proving my point that he, in fact, does not take criticism well. Only children tend to read a lot and, as such, are usually rather intellectual and enjoy learning. Brian is one of the smartest people I know and he loves to learn new things. It is also said that only children are usually comfortable with being the center of attention. This, however, is not true for Brian. He has a quiet personality and prefers to blend in with the crowd.
I have always been interested in birth order and its effects on personality. Some argue that there isn’t a correlation between the order you fall amongst your siblings and the person you become. I tend to believe that there is absolutely a connection. I don’t think it’s fair to say that birth order completely determines who you are, as there are many factors that make up a person and help mold their personalities. However, when studying families, and more specifically my own family, I can definitely see a link between the order we were born in and the people we are. I am no psychologist, but I do think there’s something to this! Regardless, of the hows or whys, I think we all turned out to be pretty awesome people! Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think we all rock!
My siblings all grown up. We love each other now.
Brian with his Mom. She is so much fun that he didn’t miss out on playing by being an only child. They just played together!