Birth order essay
The importance of the birth order and its impact on the personality of the child and its future.
Why is the birth order so important for the personality of the child? What does the “fight for “ power has to do with the birth order in one given family? What do Adler and Toman say about birth order importance?
Adler believed that the true reason for such differences between siblings is the “fight for power”: the desire to control the situation, the desire to be different, to be individual, to stand out from the crowd of other children and to get the love of the parents
Birth order Essay
Table of contents:
2. Birth order importance
1. First born children and only children
2. Middle born children
3. Last born children
3. Twin children and other positions.
4. Girls and boy in different birth orders.
"Whatever your family was, you are".
Dr. Kevin Leman
Birth order is rather significant in different cultures all over the world. In some cultures the most preferred position – was and still is the position of the eldest child. Some cultures consider the youngest child to be the dominant one. It goes without saying that the birth order has a lot to do with the further social status of the newborn. The reasons of this social status within and outside the family have a lot of premises. Different positions of birth order create certain differences between children belonging to this or that position. These differences altogether explain why siblings are not alike. The term “siblings” is used to identify children that were born from the same parents or in other words children who are brothers and sisters. The widely spread word-combination “sibling rivalry” may be interpreted as a phenomenon caused directly by the birth order. Alfred Adler was the first to speak about the meaning of the birth order for the future life of a child and the differences between the children in accordance with their birth order. According to the research of Alfred Adler, who was also the founder of individual psychology and the second child in his family1, the birth order of a child is the predictor of his future characteristics and peculiarities [Adler, 1998]. Adler believed that the true reason for such differences between siblings is the “fight for power”: the desire to control the situation, the desire to be different, to be individual, to stand out from the crowd of other children and to get the love of the parents
2. Birth order importance
As Walter Toman confirms – the patterns of behavior and reactions are very often defined through their birth order and depend on whether the person was the eldest, middle, the youngest or the only child in the family [Toman, 1993]. Each child in his development imitates certain models of behavior. The first-born will imitate grown-ups, as they his significant close persons, who are the only participants of his social interactions. The second child gets an opportunity to choose whom to imitate. This is primarily due to the fact that the eldest children in the family often actively take part in the process of bringing up younger children so can also become a model. These birth order positions do not simply separate brothers and sisters according to their year of birth, but predict the further lifestyles of these siblings.
2.a. First-born children and only children
The first child converts the marriage of two people into a real family. Ordinarily, the parents are young and rather inexperienced and sometimes even not ready for the child. Parents try to dedicate all their free time to their child and to apply as many educational techniques as it is possible, nevertheless these techniques often contradict each other and it may result is the constant anxiety of the child. First-borns are very often over-protected, as their parents make the majority of decisions for them. These children are very parent-oriented; they want to meet expectations of their parents and behave as “small adults”. A standard situation of the first-born and only children is when they are in the center of attention of the adults [Stein, 2003]. As a result they are very confident and organized. They are constantly in a need for parental and social approval and do everything possible to avoid “problematic” situations. The eldest child easily takes responsibility. The only child has a problem sharing anything within his social contacts.
Some children remain the only ones for their whole life, put some of them at a point turn into the eldest child. This position changes some characteristics, because the birth of another sibling causes trauma for the first-born. The child does not understand why parents do not pay as much attention at him as they used to do before. Being the first to be born he feels he has the right to have all their attention. First-borns are very determined and become true leaders, as they need to prove the adults that they are the best and the “first place” is still after them. The eldest child is more likely to follow the family traditions and it more conservative. If it is a boy, they may inherit their father’s professions.
The problem of the eldest child is that originally being the only child in the family he loses all the advantages of this position and as Adler stated - “power”, when the second child is born. So basically, the first-born children go through two major stages: the child is the only one in the family and is in a privileged position, than the second child is born and the first-born competes for being better. As the result first-borns are emotionally unstable.
2.b. Middle born children
The middle child in the begging of his life is the second child in the family. For this child there is always somebody ahead of him. The major goal of the second-born is to overtake the first-born. It is obvious that this type of siblings may have problems with self-determination due to the fact that they are at the same time the older and the younger child. The only exception is when the middle child is the only girl or the only boy in the family. In this case they also occupy a “special” position for their parents. Middle children combine the qualities of the eldest and the youngest child in the family. These children often have troubles finding their true place, because adults forget about them, paying special attention to the eldest child (the smart one) and to the youngest child (the helpless one). Middle siblings learn how to live in harmony with everybody, are often friendly, and make friends without difficulties. They do not feel too guilty for their failures as the fist-born children do but cope easily with any loss. Middle children are capable of seeing each aspect of live from two opposite sides, which results from the ability to live between two other birth order positions and are great negotiators.
2.c. Last-born children
The last-born child is carefree, optimistic and ready to taken someone’s protection, care and support. Very often he remains a baby for his family. He does not have to meet the high parental expectations, which the eldest child experiences, because the parents become less demanding to the child’s achievements. He has a lot of people to support him: his parents and his elder brothers or sisters. This exceeding support often spoils this sibling. The major problem the youngest child faces is the lack of self-discipline and difficulties in the sphere of decision-making. The last-born child is often manipulative. He may get offended or try to “enchant” in order to get what he needs. Ass these children get plenty of attention they ordinarily do not have troubles in socialization. The last-born child may have enormous ambitions.
The youngest child has two alternatives of developing any relations with the surrounding enviroment, and especially with his brothers and sisters. He needs either to pretend to be a “baby” his whole life, or find a way to overtake the other siblings [Sulloway, 1997]. This type of children is usually very hard to understand, as they seem to completely contradict the other children. They are often very creative.
It is believed that the parents will have a more consequent approach to the education of their youngest child than to the eldest or the middle child. As a result he becomes emotionally stable. They break rules easily and are often what people call a “rebel”. Last-born siblings usually make other people laugh and need to be in the center of attention. They do not feel uncomfortable when people look at them – that is why the stage is a perfect place for these children.
3.Twin children and other positions.
For twins the position of the eldest or youngest child are also very important and depend on the group of children they were born in. For instance, twins who have an elder sister or an older brother will behave as the youngest children. If the adults emphasize that one of the twins was born earlier, than the position of the eldest and the youngest children are divided automatically. Twins usually tend to communicate with each other than with other children and are less adult-oriented. They major problem for twins is the identity problem. Twin children experience difficulties in separating from each other.
The situation when there is only one boy in the family changes the meaning of the positions, because the boy gets a “special” position for being not a girl. In a situation when there are two girls and one boy in the family. No matter what position the only boy occupies he will either always use all possible ways to prove that he is a man or become effeminate [Leman, 1998]. If there are only boys in the family, the youngest one, being a rebel, and trying to be different may also be effeminate. In a situation where there is only one girl among boys in a family the girl gets a lot of “protectors”. The typical reaction to these positions is either very feminine girls or tomboys. If a girl becomes a tomboy she needs to be better than her brothers at least in some activities or physical abilities.
4. Girls and boy in different birth orders
The attitude of the adults towards the sex of the child is of a great importance. The majority of the families prefer sons. The older sister very often takes responsibility for bringing up younger children and takes a part of parental functions. In such a position if the youngest child is a boy than he is the one to get the “glory” and high parental expectations. There is also a high probability that the families that have only girls will continue their attempts to give birth to a son, while the families with only sons will stop at a fewer amount of children.
A very significant factor to mention is that if the age difference between the children, no matter what sex they are, is more than six years, each of the children will have the traits of the only child and some characteristics of the positions he is close to. For instance, the brother that is ten years elder than his little sister will probably remain the only child but will also have the trait of the first-born child. The more the age difference among the siblings is the less is the probability that they will compete.
Each child in any family want to ensure his individuality, occupy his own place, a place that is designed for him only. Each child needs to emphasize that his is unique and there is nobody else like him. This is the main reason why birth order has such a big importance – it explains why children are the whey they are according to what they have to overcome to prove that they are unique. So if a senior child who is serious and responsible will be set as an example for the younger one, then the younger child at least from the desire to be different will become noisy, restless and naughty. The birth order does psychologically influence the child. The literature on this topic is wide but it all claims the importance of the birth order for the further life of the child.
Alfred Adler was definitely right to say that the desire to be unique is the major leading force for children in the family. So parent would be more democratic and let the children be successful in different fields so they do not compete.
It goes without saying that these birth order regularities are not fatal, but only point out some trends of development of the children depending on their order of birth. Knowing these tendencies will help adults to avoid a lot of undesirable consequences to which the mentioned above roles of the children in the family may lead.
1 Alfred Adler is the author of the inferiority complex.