The effects of birth order have been heavily debated by child psychologists. While some believe that the effects are only present in an immediate family context, others think the effects extend to all facets of life. Despite the effects of birth order being heavily scrutinized, the general public seems to pick up on traits found in each respective child.
Oldest siblings are often described as leaders and a little overbearing. “I am very particular about things and like them just-so. My middle sister is the complete opposite,” freshman Emily Berthlesen said.
Research points to a connection between the oldest children’s tendencies and parents’ treatment of them during developmental years. Parents did not have to split attention between multiple children in the oldest child’s first years of life in most cases, so many continue to crave validation from their parents or in their academic or extracurricular activities such as sports. In many cases they also spend the majority of their childhood caring for their younger siblings.
“I think as the oldest I’m forced to mature faster especially because of the 12 and 13 year age gap between my siblings and I,” freshman Eliora Agbenohevi said.
Middle children often suffer from what has been coined as ‘middle child syndrome.’ While not necessarily forgotten about or overlooked, the middle child often feels a greater need to compete with their siblings while simultaneously acting as the peacekeeper.
“As the second child, I argue a lot with my parents and question everything while my older sister doesn’t,” Katie Peklo said. This all is highly dependent on family size. A middle child with only two siblings as opposed to a middle with six siblings would take on different familial roles. That makes the middle child the hardest to strictly define for researchers because many factors affect them.
“When I was younger I felt like middle child syndrome was a thing for me, but now I don’t think it applies to me. I think compared to my sisters, I find myself being louder or trying to get more attention because I didn’t feel like I had it when I was younger. My older sister has always acted very mature and my younger sister acts like the baby,” junior Ruthie Barrett said.
The youngest sibling catches a lot of flack as the ‘baby’ of the family. “I am usually babied by my parents and bullied by my siblings,” freshman Elsa Barrett, the aforementioned ‘baby.’ Youngest children are often the most social and creative siblings because parents give them the freedom to do so.
“I am so much more easy going as the youngest of four and am much louder because I had more voices to speak over,” senior Christina Kleinsmith said.
The youngest also benefits from the experience of their older siblings and their parents. Their parents have learned tricks of the trade with their older siblings so the youngest gets a well-experienced parent. “I am better prepared for things coming in my future,” sophomore Mary McKay said.
Socially, they can struggle with accepting authority as they have not been held to the same standards as their older siblings and being dependent on their parents to do everything for them. Even though on average they were the most outgoing child, they struggled the most with adapting to leaving the house because of the huge adjustment to life on their own.
If a child has no siblings they become classified as an only child. Only children have an interesting relationship with their parents as there isn’t the us-versusparents mentality often found amongst siblings.
Only children are often very mature and self-sufficient, but researchers discovered many find moving out very difficult because of their close attachment to their parents. “When I was younger I didn’t like being an only child because I was lonely and didn’t have anyone to play with,” senior Brianne McGovern said. “I was horrible at sharing when I was younger, but now I don’t mind.”
Still, none of this is a scientifically proven fact. Familial roles shape children in different ways and it is impossible to define a wide range of people under one stereotype. “I don’t think that birth order affects personality but I do think that the way parents treat you based on your birth order does,” freshman Katherine Dietz said.
“I do feel like my sisters and I all take on the sibling stereotypes,” freshman Barrett said. No matter what exactly is causing these patterns of personality, they have fascinated child psychologists for years.