Birth order. Does it matter?
That was the headline, more or less, of a CNN article that came out last fall, which said that birth order may, in fact, matter a lot. That same month TIME ran its own take on recent hard evidence demonstrating “The Power of Birth Order.”
For example, firstborns are more likely to go to college than children in any other position in the family. Firstborn IQs tend to be higher — albeit by just a point or two — than those of younger siblings; second-born a point higher than third-born. These were the conclusions of a study conducted in Norway and the cause for last year’s flurry of articles about the topic.
Psychologist Frank Sulloway, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and the U.S.’s leading authority on birth order, says that “in many families the firstborn is going to get into Harvard and the second-born isn’t.”
There are physical differences, too. According to the TIME article (which is worth the full read) earlier-born siblings weigh more and are taller than their later-born siblings. Older siblings are more likely to be vaccinated than younger ones. Firstborns are disproportionately represented in high-paying professions, while younger siblings are less educated but “statistically likelier to live the exhilarating life of an artist or a comedian, an adventurer, entrepreneur, GI or firefighter.” And researchers don’t know a whole lot about middle children, as they seem to have succumbed to the same not-very-visible spot that they tend to occupy in their families.
According to the book The Birth Order Connection: Finding and Keeping the Love of your Life, the order in which you are born determines a host of traits, positive and negative. These characteristics, which other birth-order resources and books also tout, are listed below.
- Mega-movers of the world
- Task oriented, well organized, dependable
- Like facts, ideas, and details
- Feel extremely comfortable with responsibility
- Often unforgiving
- Very demanding
- Hate to admit when they’re wrong
- Usually don’t accept criticism well
- To others, they seem very sensitive, feelings easily hurt
- Natural leaders and high achievers
- Majority of politicians and CEOs are first-borns (President Bush is a first-born; Brad Pitt, too)
- Come in two types: nurturing caregivers or aggressive movers and shakers
- Pay attention to detail, tend to be organized, punctual, and competent
- Want to see things done right the first time
- Don’t like surprises
- Often moody
- Can push people too hard
- Often poor at delegating tasks to others
- Tend to be perfectionists, overly concientious
- Relational, people-pleasers, dislike confrontation
- Basic need is to keep life smooth and peaceable
- Usually calm, roll with the punches, down-to-earth, great listeners
- Skilled at seeing both sides of a problem, make good mediators
- Less driven than first-borns but more eager to be liked
- Have difficult time setting boundaries
- Can drift into becoming “co-dependent” in an effort to please all
- Not good at making decisions that will offend others
- Tend to blame themselves when others fail
- The world’s cheerleaders
- Strong people skills, love to entertain and talk to others
- Make friends easily and immediately make others feel at home
- Extrovert, energized by the presence of others (Cameron Diaz is a last-born)
- Not afraid to take risks
- Tend to get bored quickly, short attention span
- Strong fear of rejection
- When they’ve had enough, they tend to check out
- Self-centered to some extent
- May harbor unrealistic expectations of finding a relationship that will always be fun
If you’re skeptical, perhaps you should take the Birth Order Predictor Quiz. Although, be warned — that might make you more skeptical.
Maybe you think there is something to all of this. If so, you might want to forego astrological compatibility in your next relationship and plan your couplings using The Birth Order Book on Love by William Cane. (In case you’re wondering, the “perfect pair” is firstborn partnered with youngest.)
But before you do anything rash, check out PBS’s Celebrity Birth Order Quiz to make sure you want birth order to dictate who’s hot and who’s not.
Once you’re finished exploring the world of birth order and collecting your opinions about the matter, do a 15-minute writing practice. Think about your childhood. Think about your relationships to adults and to siblings (if any). Think about what your traits were then and what they are now. Seriously, does birth order matter?
Big, Medium, Small, pen and ink on graph paper, doodles © 2008 by ybonesy.
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