A. None of us chooses the kind of family into which we will be born. It may be a big family, a small family, or somewhere in-between. There may be brothers, sisters, a mixture of siblings, or we may be only children. Each of us has a place in the family hierarchy, however, and each of us strives to fit into the family in our own way. According to some experts, our birth order may determine many of the personality traits we develop later in life.
B. Think about the youngest or last-born child. People often describe the baby of the family as spoiled and demanding. The exception, of course, is lastborns themselves, who may be more inclined to describe themselves as victims of their bossy, know-it-all elders. Anthropologists who study the family point to the relaxed, outgoing nature of youngest children. They suggest that they grow up competing with older children for their parents’ attention and learn to be natural entertainers. One advantage of being the last to arrive in the family is that the parents have often eased up on many of the rules and regulations that governed older children. With parents paying less attention, last-born children are free to follow their own dreams without interference.
C. One study of birth order found that three-quarters of the major scientific inventions made in the last five years can be attributed to youngest children. The study points out that the career choices of last-borns reflect their relaxed, people-oriented approach to life. They will often be found in fields that employ their optimistic, creative, fun-loving approach to life. Consequently, last-borns may often choose to work in sales, entertainment, science, or helping professions such as therapy, nursing, and social work.
D. First-born children, as a group, display another set of characteristics. As the first child on the scene, a first-born meets with inexperienced parents and becomes the guinea pig for all of the parents' good intentions. By comparison, later-born children have the benefit of more experienced, relaxed parents. By the time later babies are born, parents have more realistic and reasonable ex- pectations for their children.
E. At the same time, first-borns benefit from having their parents' undivided attention. Higher expectations are communicated to them and they are groomed for success. However, they may suffer the disadvantage of having to set a good example for younger children. Older children are often given a lot of re- sponsibility early on, and expected to make decisions for younger siblings.
F. One of the characteristics that scientists attribute to family position is a more dominant and confident nature in first-borns. These children have been trained to assume responsibility readily, and they make good leaders. Other traits that have been observed in first-borns are self-confidence and generosity. Oldest children are also good listeners. Because they are serious and goal-oriented, they are often found in professions such architecture, journalism, teaching, and law. All the astronauts chosen for the US space programmers have been first borns.
G. What about middle children? Sandwiched between older and younger siblings, they can feel like the forgotten ones in the family. Middle children are often observed to be the most secretive members of the family. Their cha- racteristics can be hard to pin down. This is not surprising when you consider that a middle child may be the second of three, or the third of six, for example. In addition, middle children may be second children, but still be the first girl or the first boy in the family.
H. People studying birth positions have noted that middle children tend to be better adjusted than their brothers and sisters. They are often good problem solvers and they display good skills as negotiators. Middle-borns are generally noted for their tact, loyalty, and humor. Being natural negotiators, they frequently find careers as managers, counselors, and diplomats, and may have high ambitions that allow them to surpass their older siblings.
I. Finally, there are only children. Like first-borns, they are initiators and leaders. Because their parents have had such high hopes for them, they tend to have high standards for themselves. Only children are often serious and scholarly and they are attracted to the same careers as first-borns. Like first-borns, they enjoy taking initiative; but unlike first-borns, they may not get along well with people their own age. They may be better at dealing with older people and younger children, in relationships where their roles are clearly defined.
J. Are the experts telling us that our place in the family will determine our character traits for life? No, not really. What experts do say is that, while birth order may influence the kind of people we become, in the long run many other life experiences play as great a role. In the final analysis, the way we are is really up to us.