Family Matters: 10 Things About Birth Order Traits that Will Surprise You

Birth order psychology isn't just a myth. Here are 10 surprising birth order traits you may not know.

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Universal birth order traits aren’t just mythology. Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler is considered the father of birth order psychology and his theories are the basis of just about all modern thinking on the subject. A new study of 377,000 high school students found that there is some truth to the stereotypes but the differences may be so minor that they don’t have much of an effect in real life.

Of course, birth order is just one variable and as the University of Illinois psychology professor Brent Roberts, who led the analysis with postdoctoral researcher Rodica Damian points out, “Another major problem with within-family studies is that the oldest child is always older. People say, ‘But my oldest kid is more responsible than my youngest kid.’ Yes, and they’re also older.” Good point! Still, it’s always fascinating to ponder how birth order psychology affects our personalities now and parents often feel it acutely as their family grows. Here are 10 surprising birth order traits you may not know.

1. Firstborn Rule


Firstborns in general tend to do better in school and are more ambitious than their younger siblings. A 2014 study at University of Essex in the U.K. found that firstborn girls are even higher achievers than firstborn boys. Hillary Clinton certainly backs this theory up!

2. Middle Kids Make Great Negotiators

We often picture that middle children feel overshadowed by their overachieving older sibling and doted upon younger one. Jan Brady anyone? Unlike petulant awkward Jan, middles often develop superior social skills and find ways to make themselves indispensable.

3. The Eternal Baby

brothers playing

No matter how old they are, youngest kids are always the baby of the family and, unlike those born before, the baby’s position is never usurped. They may learn to use their pampered status to avoid responsibility. And anyone who’s oldest is probably still mad that their younger siblings got away with murder.

4. Sisters & Brothers

Gender also plays a big role in birth order traits. Boys usually have more freedom than girls. Older sisters are often seen as bossy whereas older brothers are protectors or bullies.

5. Psychological Birth Order

hugging brothers

Psychological birth order (PBO) may make more of a difference than actual birth order (ABO). PBO is what position you feel like you hold in the family. For instance, if you’re the middle but the oldest child is very shy and reserved or has some kind of disability, you may wind up stepping into the oldest role.

6. What About Twins?

Twins are a separate unit in the birth order psychology system. Their birth order only relates to each other not other siblings one takes the oldest role and one takes the youngest. Identical twins tend to be more equal than fraternal twins.

7. The Gap


If there is a space of four or more years between siblings everything resets and the next child functions as the oldest or an only child of he or she is the last. Donald Trump is a particularly in your face example he is the fourth of five children but there’s a four year gap between him and the next-oldest sibling.

8. Siblings & Parents

How your siblings and parents perceive you as well as how they treat you makes a big difference in your PBO.

9. Parents’ Birth Order


Parents tend to identify with kids who share their birth order. Which makes you wonder about the whole nature vs. nurture thing.

10. Sexual orientation?

Several studies have found that men with older brothers are more likely to be gay than those without and the more older brothers, the greater the likelihood.

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