you know that of the first twenty-three astronauts in space, twenty-one
of them are firstborns? The other two grew up as the only child in
their families. Did you know that many of the entrepreneurs in business
were the middle child? Are you aware that a majority of our comedians
are the youngest of the siblings in their families? These traits relate
to birth order, or the position of children in a family. Some studies
indicate that birth order is the most significant factor that
Where do you fit? Were you the
firstborn, middle child, only child, last child, twin, or a different
position altogether in your family? As you’ve observed the distinct
differences in your own children, have you ever considered what birth
order might have to do with it?
I grew up in a family of seven
children. The varied personalities of my siblings convinced me that we
represented two or possibly three sets of birth-order traits. But my
wife and I have just two children. Still, it’s been interesting to see
how some of the birth-order factors have emerged within their two, very
different personalities. With my college major in psychology, the
subject of birth order has always been a source of fascination.
The following list of traits
comes from the Child Development Institute, adapted from a study by Don
Dinkmeyer, Gary D. McKay, and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr., Parent Education
Leader’s Manual Coral Springs, FL, CMTI Press. See if you notice
similarities from your own experience as you read through these major
Pampered and spoiled.
Feels incompetent because adults are more capable.
Center of attention; often enjoys position; may feel special.
Relies on service from others rather than own efforts.
Feels unfairly treated when doesn’t get own way.
May refuse to cooperate; plays “divide and conquer” to get own way.
Is the only child for period of time; used to being center of
attention; believes he or she must gain and hold superiority over other
Being right, controlling is often important.
May respond to birth of second child by feeling unloved and neglected.
Strives to keep or regain parents’ attention through conformity; if
this fails, chooses to misbehave.
May develop competent, responsible behavior, or become very discouraged.
Sometime strives to protect and help others.
Strives to please.
Never has parents’ undivided attention.
Always has sibling ahead who’s more advanced.
Acts as if in race, trying to catch up or overtake first child.
If first child is “good,” second may become “bad”; develops abilities
first child doesn’t exhibit.
If first child successful, may feel uncertain of self and abilities.
May be rebel.
Often doesn’t like position.
Feels “squeezed” if third child is born; may push down other siblings.
Child of Three
Has neither rights of oldest nor privileges of youngest.
Feels life is unfair.
Feels unloved, left out, “squeezed”.
Feels doesn’t have place in family.
Becomes discouraged and “problem child,” or elevates self by pushing
down other siblings.
Learns to deal with both oldest and youngest siblings
Behaves like an only child.
Feels every one bigger and more capable.
Expects others to do things, make decisions, take responsibility.
Feels smallest and weakest; may not be taken seriously.
Becomes boss of family in getting service and own way.
Develops feelings of inferiority or becomes “speeder” and overtakes
Remains “The Baby”; places others in service.
If youngest of three, often allies with oldest child against middle
NOTES: 1. The middle child of
three is usually different from the middle child of a large family. The
middle children of large families are often less competitive because
parents don’t have as much time to give each child, so the children
learn to cooperate to get what they want. 2. Only children usually want
to be adults, so they don’t relate to peers very well. When they become
adults, they often believe they’ve finally “made it” and can now relate
better to adults as peers. 3. During their formative years, only
children live primarily in the world of adults. They must learn how to
operate in the big people’s world as well as how to entertain
themselves. Thus they often become very creative in their endeavors.
Does the above information
confirm some of your own experiences as a child, and as a parent or
Dr. Kevin Lehman asserts, “Birth
order powerfully influences who you are, whom you marry, the job you
choose, and the kind of parent you are.”
Birth order may also unlock some
of the issues you face with the reading habits of children in your
family or circle of friends.
A recent study, reported by the
Education Resources Information Center, found that reading
comprehension in second grade was not higher for firstborn and
second-born students in second grade, but total reading achievement and
comprehension turned out to be higher for firstborn and second-born
sixth grade students than it was for those born later.
In addition, a California study
reported that vocabulary scores were significantly related to birth
order, family size, and socioeconomic status. Comprehension scores were
significantly related only to family size and socioeconomic status.
If you’d like to do more reading
on the subject of birth order, see the Time Magazine
article “The Power of Birth Order,”
American’s “How Birth Order Affects Your Personality.”
Of course, many other factors
affect who we are and what our potential in life will be. But it would
be good to evaluate your young readers, in light of what others have
observed and reported, by comparing birth order to performance in the
children under your care.