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February 17th, 2010
Birth Order

Today I read a magazine article about the birth order of children and how it affects their lives. Experts believe that birth order definitely influences a child’s personality. It also has a bearing on their career choice and the way they deal with relationships.

I found the article interesting because I have a brother and a sister, both younger than me. It was fascinating comparing the first, second and last born characteristics with my family.
First born children love to succeed, they’re good leaders, are good at solving problems, and easy to work with. They can also be overbearing and insensitive, overly concerned with rules, have high stress levels and strive too hard for perfection.

I definitely like to succeed (who doesn’t?) I take charge (sometimes) and I’m good at problem solving. (yes, that’s true—I’m a facts and figure person). The stress part is true, but I constantly work to keep the stress levels down. I worry too much about order, process and rules—sometimes. Insensitive? Sometimes I can be tactless, but I don’t think I’m insensitive. My family and friends might disagree. I’m not sure.

First born children are often company directors and have valuable and enjoyable careers. In truth, I’ve never aspired to be a company director. I like being my own boss and enjoy the creative writing process even though the business drives me nuts at times.

Middle born children are independent, know how to keep a secret, are mentally tough and are good mediators. On the negative side, they can be cynical, they might feel too much on the outside, may be uncooperative and bottle up their true feelings.

Middle born children can be mysterious and keep to themselves. Yes, this is my brother. They’re willing to do things differently. Yes, again. My brother is very innovative. They see issues from both sides. This actually sounds more like me, but no one said this is a perfect science.

On the down side, they’re often stubborn and unwilling to cooperate and they keep opinions to themselves. Yes, to all of this, but I’m also stubborn when I feel the need.

Middle born children are good in mediating roles (nope, can’t see this one at all) and entrepreneurial roles (definitely! This is my brother) and they enjoy building close working relationships.

I know that some writers use this research when developing their characters and give their hero and heroine the quirks associated with their birth order. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when working on your characterization.

Source: Lifestyle Magazine June/July 2000, The New Birth Order Book: Why you are the way you are by Dr Kevin Lernan.

For those who are interested, I intend to blog about last born and only children later this week.

Are you a first born or middle child? Does any of this sound like you? Does it sound like your brothers or sisters who have these positions in your family? And for the writers out there – have you used birth order when developing your characters?

19 comments to “Birth Order”

  1. Birth order is always interesting. For your brother as the only boy – he will have some of the characteristics of first borns and youngest and also of the only child.

    The birth order theory works better the more children of each sex there are in the family.

    Then it gets really messy when you combine families.


  2. I’m the oldest of six and birth order definitely ruled in my family.

    I was the alpha in my family. Got into management early in my career. I only stress out when I’m not in charge. LOL

    You didn’t mention anything about the youngest, but in my family I found it interesting the youngest was also an overachiever. He grew up and built a his own business teaching gymnastics.

  3. I find birth order fascinating, though I haven’t yet used it in creating characters. I’m an only child, so I’ll be back later this week. :)

  4. I know birth order matters. My sister was born four and a half years later than me and we’re not only as different as night as day (though close), we were raised differently by the same two people in the same household. It has a lot to do with being different people, but a lot of our differences are dictated by birth order, imo.

  5. I’m the youngest child. I read once that the youngest child is always a little rebellious and likes to go their own way. That probably describes me just a little. LOL.
    I’ve never taken the birth order into consideration when developing my characters. That might be something interesting to think about.

  6. Nessa – I imagine that a blended family would wreak havoc with the rules. Every child would have to adjust to the new order and work out where they fit.

  7. Maria – that’s interesting. I wondered how the birth order would apply to a larger family and whether it would make a huge difference.

  8. Cari – NZ author Abby Gaines uses birth order in her characterization. She did an interesting online class for our RWNZ group.

  9. Amber – there is about the same gap between my sister and me. We’re quite different and age has brought us closer together. When we were kids we used to argue a lot! :mrgreen:

  10. Lucinda – you, rebellious? :grin:
    Books on birth order make for fascinating reading. It’s definitely something to consider if a character is giving you “trouble”.

  11. I’m the baby and only girl. Spoiled? Maybe…lol

    I have four kids with the two youngest being twins, so it kind of fouls up the chart a little, but I can see a lot in the roles of my kids. Interesting stuff.

    The only time I thought about the different character traits was when I did a book with hero who grew up the youngest and only male in the family. Thanks for the reminder, I need to think about this more when I write. :-)

  12. I have 2 older bothers and an older sister whom I didn’t grow up with because they were from my dads previous marriage. So my younger brother who I did grow up with was my older sibling that I really knew. I was more caregiver to him than a sister because we has alcoholic parents that didn’t take care of us.

    A few years ago I found outt hat i have another older brother that my mom gave up for adoption before I was born. But even though he’s older, I treat him like my younger brother and tell him what to do. I think growing up being the one in charge all the time made me this way.

  13. Very interesting post, Shelley. I look forward to part two. It sounds like a good idea to use this model to create a few character traits.

  14. My sibling sets are interesting because there are two Family sets. Both with the same parents but 10 years apart. In the first set is four girls all born less than a year apart. I’m in this set as second surviving child. Mom had 6 children in 5 years. We four were all interchangeable to everyone so I really did not have any individual identity until collage. The second set however has very definite sibling placement. Vincent as the eldest in that set was most definitely in the leadership roll. Laura as the youngest however is the baby. It is interesting to note that my dad always tried to put Ivana as the oldest as leader but that role usually went to the third child Katie. my parents also treated Anna as the youngest as she is the last in the first set. So imagine if you can the youngest in one set trying to be in charge of the oldest in the second set. Man was there a lot of fireworks between those two. Anyway I’ve had fun with it over the years.

  15. I am fascinated by birth order, I defiantly think there is something to it. Having all half siblings though myself makes it confusing to apply to us. I have an older sister who is 3 1/2 years older than me and has the same mother but different fathers. Then I have a brother who is 9 months older than me , we share the same father different mother. Lastly a sister who I am 5 months older than, same father different mother. To add to the confusion the three of us were in the same grade in school and had to explain; no we are not triplets. My older sister is the only one who shows clear text book first born tendencies.

  16. Debra – I think it’s quite useful as a guide when it comes to writing characters. Star signs are quite good too.

    Mary – so birth order has had an influence on you then. :mrgreen:

  17. Sarah – your family sounds interesting and fascinating from the birth order perspective as well. :mrgreen:

    Tara – blended families seem to be fairly common these days. I bet the triplet explainations became old after a while.

  18. I’ll have to check back next week because not only am I the second and youngest, but I also have two children and it would be interesting to know more about the youngest children (though with a girl and a boy it probably changes the dynamic a bit)

    My daughter, the older, is definitely a rule follower and a bit of a controller when it comes to her brother. I’ll have to wait and see what career she ultimately chooses – she’s only 9!

  19. […] I’m continuing my post on birth order today and talking about last born and only children. Go here for the first part of the post on birth order. […]