How Could Birth Order Impact Your Child’s Personality?

Parents, professionals weigh in


Published:

Images courtesy of Advent/Shutterstock.com

Lisa Southwick and her husband, Dan, parent six kids in Apex — five biological and one adopted. “I have often said how different my kids are,” she says, “which surprises me since five of my six kids are from the same two parents!”

One reason siblings are so different is their birth order, says psychologist Kevin Leman, author of “The Birth Order Book” (Revell, 2009). Whether kids are born first, second, third or even farther down the line, birth order affects them in countless ways. 

For instance, studies show that firstborns perform better academically than their younger siblings. An October 2013 Duke University study titled, “Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance” suggests that “trickle down” parenting is one reason for the disparity. Parents have higher expectations and more stringent rules for firstborns in hopes that younger siblings will take note.

While many exhausted parents can relate, Leman says other factors can also determine how birth order affects their child(ren). Mental or physical illness in one of the siblings, large age gaps, gender, adoptions and divorces all play a role.

Therapist Meri Wallace, author of “Birth Order Blues: How Parents Can Help Their Children Meet the Challenges of Birth Order” (Holt Paperbacks, 2014), says that despite the many subtleties of families, kids who share a birth order often exhibit similar strengths and share common emotional challenges. Wallace says parents who recognize the validity of each child’s experience can help kids build self-esteem and alleviate sibling rivalry in the family.

 

Firstborns

Leman describes firstborns as either the first child born into a family or the first child of their gender. Only children also often share similar traits as firstborns. Leman says that the oldest child tends to receive the most attention and praise. However, parents of firstborns are the least experienced.

Southwick can relate. “As new parents we were completely challenged by our firstborn,” she says.

Leman says that firstborns tend to be natural leaders, reliable and conscientious. They also favor black-and-white thinking. Firstborns might prefer a sensible adult to their peers and act wise beyond their years. They also tend to be competitive overachievers.

Perfectionism is a firstborn’s worst enemy, Wallace says. This is especially true since their inexperienced parents tend to have unrealistic expectations of them. 

“Some firstborn children go through life feeling that they cannot measure up,” Wallace says. “Lacking in confidence, they might drop out and refuse to compete altogether.”

Wallace advises parents to avoid criticizing their firstborns or comparing them to others. Instead, she encourages parents to praise their kids’ efforts, even when they fail. “Emphasize the distinction between his performance and his value as a person,” Wallace says. 

Leman also advises that parents remember that their firstborns are still kids. As such, they shouldn’t be expected to fully care for their younger siblings or take on more than their share of work in the home.

 

Middleborns

Leman says middle children’s personalities are the hardest to pin down. “They’ll be the opposite of the child above them in the family,” he says. “If the firstborn is very conventional, the second will be unconventional.”

Southwick agrees. “When we had our secondborn, Kelsey, we were amazed at how much more easygoing she was than our firstborn,” she says.

Leman says middleborns can be skilled diplomats and negotiators, but that they also march to the beat of their own drum. They form tighter relationships within a friend circle as a way to carve out their own place in the world.

What middle children lack, however, is attention, Wallace says. Middleborns often report feeling overlooked and under appreciated. They compare themselves to their older siblings and feel inadequate and jealous. However, they also experience the pressure of younger siblings advancing in age behind them. 

Feeling this squeeze, middleborns can become attention seekers, Wallace says. They may dress or act flamboyantly, become people pleasers or clowns, or resort to negative behaviors. 

Wallace advises parents to reassure middleborns that although there are unique challenges to being a middle child, they are equally loved. Wallace also says spending special time with middleborns can reduce misbehavior and build self-esteem.

Leman advises making sure middle children aren’t always stuck with the hand-me-downs, if possible. Leman also warns that middle children tend to be more secretive, so it’s important that parents listen carefully when they explain their views and feelings.

 

Lastborns

“These social, outgoing creatures have never met a stranger,” Leman says of the youngest family members. For lastborns, life is one big party. Since parents are less likely to punish lastborns, their siblings often accuse them of “getting away with murder.”

Southwick has another take on the situation however. “My oldest is 27 and my youngest is 9,” she points out. “I’m parenting them in completely different worlds. Their personalities are different, too, and I’ve learned a lot. So I’m not going to parent them both the same way.”

Despite what their siblings might think, Leman says lastborns live with great ambivalence. They are adored one minute, then left out and ignored as the baby the next. Leman, who was the youngest in his own family, says lastborns can carry this ambivalence with them into adulthood. However, youngest children can also be very stubborn and persistent, determined to prove that they can do anything.

Wallace points out several ways parents can help lastborns thrive. Tension among siblings can trickle down to the youngest, who is least able to defend himself or herself. Parents need to be careful that older siblings aren’t dominating lastborns. Older siblings can quickly grow impatient with their youngest brother or sister, too. 

Parents can support lastborns by helping siblings find developmentally appropriate ways for them to play together. To reduce resentment among siblings, parents can also include lastborns in all parts of family life, including chores.

No matter what order your child was born in, unconditional love mixed with consistent discipline and customized parental oversight can help him or her become a kind, emotionally stable, contributing member of society who will hopefully someday follow your example when raising his or her own children. 

 

Christa C. Hogan is a freelance writer and local mom to three boys.


Birth Order Quizzes

Want to learn more about how birth order may be affecting you or your child? Try taking these online quizzes.

Does Birth Order Affect Who You Are?

What’s Your Birth Order Personality

What Birth Order Personality Do You Have?

 

Children’s Books About Siblings

“The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo” by Judy Blume (Yearling, 1982)

“The Pain and the Great One” by Judy Blume (Athenium Books for Young Readers, 1974)

“Charlotte the Scientist is Squished” by Camille Andros (Clarion Books, 2017)

“Big Sister, Little Sister” by LeUyen Pham (Hyperion Books for Children, 2005)

“My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster, 1998)

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

March 25-28: Crafty Kids, Muddy Boots, Lemony Snicket Party and NerdCon

Here are some fun things to do this week with the kids.

Triangle Towns Host Easter Egg Hunts

Everyone loves the thrill of an Easter egg hunt, and Triangle towns from Apex to Zebulon are hosting lots of them!

Carowinds Launches Copperhead Strike

Hands in the air for this double-launch coaster that anchors the new themed area at Carowinds.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

March 2019

The Cary Kennel Club, Alamance Kennel Club, Durham Kennel Club, Raleigh Kennel Club and Fayetteville Kennel Club join forces to bring dog lovers a variety of dog competitions, obedience and rally...

Cost: $5/person

Where:
North Carolina Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

The Vernal Equinox signals the beginning of Spring. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Enjoy the museum's annual celebration of flowers. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $13/members and $18/nonmembers. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Telephone: 919-839-6262
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir will reach new heights as our choristers and community present Dr. Tim Sharp’s “High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass.” Welcoming area boys to perform in...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Baptist Church
99 N Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Boychoir
Telephone: 919-881-9259
Contact Name: Erin O'Hara
Website »

More information

Join park staff on an easy hike to look for early wildflowers, blooming trees and singing birds. Learn how to identify some common spring species and enjoy the park as it comes to life!​...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Excite your neurons and discover brain science. Enjoy lab tours, a kids' corner, games and much more. Free and open to the public. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Duke University
308 Research Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
View map »


Website »

More information

Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 6-9 years create a fairy house in the woods for a mouse, bug, toad or other woodland fairy. Natural materials provided, which participants can use to build the fairy house of their dreams...

Cost: $4

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a fun-filled family- and dog-friendly event that starts at Carrboro Town Commons and winds through diverse neighborhoods and the UNC campus. The route measures about 4 miles but can be...

Cost: Free; optional t-shirt purchase/donation

Where:
Carrboro Town Commons
301 W. Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Interfaith Council for Social Services/Church World Service
Telephone: 919-942-6571
Contact Name: Mae McClendon
Website »

More information

Dan Breeding brings his beloved animals to Carrboro. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Green St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy two Grimm's fairytales as told by youth musicians, actors, and artists with original music by R. Michael Daugherty. Presented by Philharmonic Assoc. Chamber Ensembles. Purchase...

Cost: $8/person

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Using cutting edge lighting technology, Lightwire Theater brings the beloved story to life in a blaze of color. The result is an unforgettable theatrical experience blending electroluminescent...

Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 3 and younger.

Where:
Stewart Theatre, Talley Student Union
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parent and child experience a music and movement class. Enjoy Orff and percussion instruments and do a little jumping and jamming.  Please call ahead to hold your space for the class.

Cost: Free

Where:
Millbrook Baptist Preschool
1519 East Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Millbrook Baptist Preschool
Telephone: 919-876-4030
Contact Name: Suzanne Holleman
Website »

More information

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization.

Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Spring is here and the winter snow is melting away. Create a weather craft to celebrate the new season. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult accompaniment...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »

More information

Ages 5-13. Homeschool Yoga is a one-hour class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness. Weave in art and journaling before or after...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »

More information

Ages 5-13 enjoy a one-hour yoga class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness, encourage the development of communication and social...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization and more.

Cost: $15/child, use your package/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt Carmel Church Rd
chapel hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Kids 6 & under are free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Dance 2 Get Fit is a high energy, calorie blasting dance fitness workout. Each dance routine is fun and exciting, yet easy to follow. The dance moves will target your hips, thighs and strengthen...

Cost: $5 per class

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Road
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

See Captain Jim perform magic and deliver a few words of wisdom. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Green St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Connect with your baby, other parents and yourself during this adult-focused postpartum yoga class. Recommended for babies newborn to walking. Take a mat, a blanket for your little one, and...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Meet other families in your community in a recreation setting. The play room will be reserved for parents and their young children. Sports and recreation equipment will be available...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120082.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This after-school class for kids in grades 3-5 offers fun learning yoga poses and mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

More information

Parents learn help children with special needs build skills to encourage independence and confidence. Register online. Choose course #121426.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy a night of bingo, food and fun. Wear green clothing. Drinks and light snacks provided. Register online. Choose course #121060.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Dance 2 Get Fit is a high energy, calorie blasting dance fitness workout. Each dance routine is fun and exciting, yet easy to follow. The dance moves will target your hips, thighs and strengthen...

Cost: $5 per class

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Road
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Families with rising kindergartners or little ones hoping to get into early entry to stop by our informational fair for free kindergarten screenings and fun educational activities for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wynns Family Psychology
130 Preston Executive Dr
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Sponsor: Wynns Family Psychology
Telephone: 919-467-7777
Contact Name: Kristen Wynns
Website »

More information

Read and Feed is an after-school literacy program that provides meals, tutoring and books to children from low-income families in Wake County. The Feed the Reader Breakfast is the...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Umstead Hotel
100 Woodland Pond Dr.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 15 and older with disabilities enjoy dancing, music, games and refreshments. Wear spring attire. Register online. 

Cost: $3

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy popcorn with a family-friendly movie while being comfy in your pajamas. Refreshments provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

Go on a night hike with a park naturalist to test your sensory skills after dark. We’ll hike past the pond's edge and through forests, wetlands, and fields to discover what happens in these...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Go behind the scenes at the veterinary school, get up close and personal with animals, and meet the faculty, staff and students who make our institution one of a kind. Animal lovers of all sizes...

Cost: Free; no registration required

Where:
NC State College of Veterinary Medicine
1060 William Moore Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: NC Stqte College of Veterinary Medicine
Website »

More information

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px 'Times New Roman'; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Why do neighborhoods change so quickly in Durham? Was...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ninth Street
Durham, NC  27705

More information

Widow's Son Lodge #4, is hosting an annual free community health fair. Area health care provider and services are organized in one larger location to offer free screenings, information, one on...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Cosmopolitan Baptist Church
1515 Cross Link Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Widow's Son Lodge #4
Telephone: 252-367-7111
Contact Name: James Purington
Website »

More information

Discover the fascinating world of pond critters by scooping in the pond to observe who lives there up close. View some of the tiniest critters under a microscope. All ages with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), kids ages 6 & under: free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Larger-than-life puppets and the North Carolina Symphony bring the animal kingdom to life for a performance of Saint-Saëns’ magnificent music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

*This sensory-friendly performance is designed especially for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities or other disabilities. Ziggy is a shy boy who...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Talented dance students present "Swan Lake Act II". Purchase tickets online for either the 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. show.

Cost: $15 in advance, $18 at the door

Where:
Fletcher Opera Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See talented dance students perform their spring repertoire in "Swan Lake Act II". Purchase tickets online for either the 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. performance.

Cost: $15 advance tickets, $18 at the door

Where:
Fletcher Opera Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Larger-than-life puppets and the North Carolina Symphony bring the animal kingdom to life for a performance of Saint-Saëns’ magnificent music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

The Triangle Rock Paper Scissors Showdown is a bracket-style competition of the age-old game we all know and love. Teams of 4 will compete head-to-head to decide whether throwing a risky rock,...

Cost: $100/team of 4 ($25 per person), VIP: $400/team of 4 ($100 per person)

Where:
Big Boss Brewing Company
1249 Wicker Dr., Ste. A
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Together
Telephone: 919-856-7453
Contact Name: Colleen McDevitt
Website »

More information

Talented dance students present "Swan Lake Act II". Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $15 in advance, $18 at the door

Where:
Fletcher Opera Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.