Birth order: where do you stand?
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03-20-15 Category: Mental Health


birth order where do you stand

Did you grow up with siblings? Were you the oldest? The youngest? The middle child? Do you have a twin? Are you an only child? What kind of person are you?

Believe it or not, birth order and the kind of person you are today are actually closely interrelated. It isn’t that being the first, middle or last child physically changes how the brain works or alters the genetic make-up but rather that it affects the relationships that humans create.

The Effect of Birth Order

Alfred Adler and other researchers looked at how birth order, or rather how that birth order affects how a child is treated by parents and other siblings and how the child feels about it, affects the individual. This can be affected by birth spacing (how close together or far apart children are born), gender, being a twin or by certain physical attributes. For example, a first born child can be the ordinal first. However, the first of a certain gender or the first of a later set of children may be treated as a first born.

  • Firstborns:
    • Firstborns tend to be more responsible, assertive, perfectionistic, task-oriented and support authority. When younger siblings are introduced they also tend to lead or mentor others. Firstborns are prone to higher academic achievement possible due to more exposure with adult language and more interaction with parents.
    • Firstborns will often end up pursuing careers in fields such as careers in science, medicine, law, engineering or computer science and some may take on leadership roles, which is why nearly half of US presidents were firstborns!
  • Second and middleborns:
    • Secondborns will often be middleborns. Middleborns will often have an interesting relationship with older siblings. They may feel inferior or be competitive. They may also feel forgotten or overlooked because of the demands or attention paid to the older or younger children.
    • The competition leads many middleborns/secondborns to areas of innovation in an effort to stand out in the family dynamic. Middleborns may be socially skilled as well. Because of this, the children will often excel as trial lawyers, social activists and may work well in team sports.
  • Lastborns
    • Lastborns will often be considered the baby of the family throughout their lives meaning they are often nurtured by older family members. This allows them to develop strong social and coping skills and the often have the highest self-esteem.
    • Contrastingly, lastborns may also feel weak or helpless compared to older siblings and may develop self-esteem issues if the power to make decisions or take responsibility is taken away from them. They may make up for this by acting as the boss of the family and inciting rivalry between the first and middleborns.


  • Only children:
    • Only children will often exhibit traits of both the first and lastborns as they grow up relating more to adults. The downside is that many only children struggle to relate to their peers, a problem which will change as they grow older.
    • Only children tend to be achievement oriented and will likely succeed academically and attend college. They may also be creative.
    • Only children may also be somewhat self-centered, over-protected and uncooperative. In some cases they can be hypercritical of themselves or others.

While science may debate the importance of birth order, it is important to take these and other factors into consideration when helping a child, teen or adult with a mental health disorder, substance abuse problem or co-occurring conditions. Factors such as birth order, gender and what environment a person was raised in can seriously affect how they develop and what choices they make along with helping or damaging their mental health.

To learn more about treatment for mental health disorder, substance abuse or co-occurring conditions, you can visit or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.

Written by Sovereign Health Content Writer Brianna Gibbons

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