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Predictors of Personality

Does birth order play a role in personality development?

Personality tests are a popular tool. They’re used by employers to see if the person they want to hire will be a good fit, by colleges looking to accept new students, and by people wondering if their partner would make a good spouse. Many individuals enjoy taking personality assessments just for fun. Psychologists like to study personalities and what environmental factors help shape personality.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why do you react the way you do? What makes you tick? Personality tests can help find answers to these and other questions. But why do you have your specific personality?

Birth order is one factor many people believe plays a role in personality development. Has the fact that you’re an oldest, youngest, middle, or only child helped to shape you into the person you are today? The jury is out, but there are several interesting stereotypes of birth order and personality. Keep in mind that these are generalizations and not always the case, but they may help explain why you’re the way you are.

First Born

The oldest child in a family is often a natural leader. As the oldest, they are given more responsibilities by their parents and expected to be a role model and leader to their younger siblings (which often comes across as being bossy). Parents are often stricter with their first child, adding to a child’s sense of responsibility and desire to rule follow. Firstborn children are often described as diligent, intelligent, structured, responsible, conscientious, and high achievers.

Middle Child

If you fall somewhere in between the first and last child, your personality isn’t as easy to predict. Middle children, however, are considered easygoing, flexible peace-makers. With older and younger siblings, kids in the middle may be more social, extroverted, good at negotiating, and function better as a team player. Unlike the first or last child, middle children may often be overlooked and receive less attention from their parents. This may make them people-pleasers and eager for attention, whether positive or negative. Middle children are more likely to be rebellious and get in trouble at school.

The Baby

The youngest child will always be Mommy’s baby. They get away with more and are spoiled more than the other children in the family. As the runt, they’re known to be charismatic and comical in their attempts to get attention and gain acceptance in the family. They may not be smart or big, but they can use their charm to manipulate or get attention. In their quest for acceptance, they may take risks, be creative, and have competitive natures. Stereotypes of youngest children include outgoing, self-centered, eager for attention, and rebellious.

An Only Child

There’s no sharing of attention with your parents when you’re an only child. All eyes are on you and you get a full share of resources. The personality of an only child is often similar to a firstborn, but with more self-confidence. Without other children in the family to learn from, an only child may be more sensitive, spoiled, and demanding, and less forgiving. They’re known to be independent, perfectionist, creative thinking, and wiser than their peers.

Contributing Factors

Everyone knows there’s more to personality than birth order. A few things to take into consideration are the age differences between siblings. If there are more than a few years’ difference, it’s like the birth order starts over.
Blended families add a new dimension to birth order. A firstborn may suddenly become a middle child and have trouble finding their place in the family.

Children with mental or physical health issues often remain the “youngest” in the family, regardless of his or her age.