Sunday, February 8, 2015


    ('Hello beautiful faces' photo)

There are many theories regarding how our personality and attitudes are affected by where we are in the family line-up, and there are always exceptions to the above commonly observed behaviors.

If you are a parent you will remember the heavy responsibility you felt when child number one arrived.  For one thing, even though in your own family you may have had younger siblings, when it comes to your own child it is a whole new ball game.  You have great expectations of yourselves as new parents as well as high expectations for that first child as he/she develops.  You often have to admit you really don't know what you are doing, never having been a parent before. By the time the second or third child comes along, parents are much more relaxed and often older siblings are heard to say, "It's not fair!  Johnny is a spoiled brat.  He gets away with everything."

My oldest child, a son, is a rather serious boy, always keen to do the right thing.  When he was only 5 years-old I used to say, as he went out the door to go to school, "Be good."  One day the teacher told me to stop saying that because she found him sitting there, cross-legged, frightened he would do something wrong!  Oh dear!   He was also a perfectionist.  Many a half-finished assignment was screwed up and thrown in the trash before he was really satisfied. (This was before the age of computers!)  He felt responsible, hardly ever put a foot wrong at school, liked to please and he obeyed rules.

Our daughter was/is easy-going, strong-willed (which worked out well in the fact that she never gave in to the temptation of taking drugs or doing other vices).  She is flexible and sociable, generous, and doesn't back down when she feels strongly about something.  When there are three or four children, the oldest is expected to be a good example and the baby gets most of the attention.  Those in the middle are suddenly not the baby any more and often feel lost in the mix especially same gender children.

The chart above says that a third child is more likely to be a risk taker.  Parents often hover over them to the point that they may not develop much initiative.  Child three has the benefit of parents who are now more relaxed and perhaps have less time to be quite so protective.  The results show that this child is more likely to be outgoing, funny and competitive. 

Only children often have similar behaviors as first children.  Sometimes they find it difficult to see themselves as anything but the center of the family as opposed to being part of the family.  This is partly due to parents having no other children to share their time with.  Only children are usually more adept with speech and often reflect the fact that they have grown up with undiluted adult company.  However, there are some only children that are very 'babied' and act immaturely because everything is done for them.

I think my children have very different personalities in many ways and this does seem strange when they both come from exactly the same family environment and have grown up with similar parental expectations.  However, each child is born with a different temperament and this affects their personality development, but this doesn't account for every difference.  Perhaps birth order really does have more effect on our children's demeanor and behavior than we realize!

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

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