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)

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Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries

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Join park staff for a fun, informal fishing experience. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. Fishing is catch and...

Cost: FREE

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


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on week of camp

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

I am a mom and retired CPA who is passionate about teaching teens about the high cost of their choices. I teach a fun, interactive "Game of Life meets Dave Ramsey" class that has teens experience...

Cost: $225

Where:
Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
Website »

More information

Short class advertising for local class   I am a mom and retired CPA who is passionate about teaching teens about the high cost of their choices. I teach a fun, interactive "Game of Life meets...

Cost: $225

Where:
Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
Website »

More information

Short class advertising for local class   I am a mom and retired CPA who is passionate about teaching teens about the high cost of their choices. I teach a fun, interactive "Game of Life meets...

Cost: $225

Where:
Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Young children and their families are invited to participate in an interactive program with books, songs, movement, and other early literacy-based activities, carefully selected to engage an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village Regional Library
1930 Clark Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries

More information

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on week of camp

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

The Community Farm at Chestnut Ridge + Growga are excited to offer outdoor yoga classes this spring!   The Little Sprouts Growga program is for ages 2-5. They learn basic mindfulness elements...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Community Farm at Chestnut Ridge
2902 Mt. Willing Road
Efland, NC  27243
View map »


Sponsor: The Community Farm at Chestnut Ridge
Telephone: 919-304-2178
Contact Name: Erica Romkema
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Young children and their families are invited to participate in an interactive program with books, songs, movement, and other early literacy-based activities, carefully selected to engage an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village Regional Library
1930 Clark Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries

More information

The park comes alive after dark! Let the moon guide your way as we stroll around the pond in search of these night-time critters. Play fun games and try to catch some nocturnal bugs! Don't forget a...

Cost: FREE. Registration required for everyone; children must have adult accompaniment

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

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


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on week of camp

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

Enjoy a wonderful springtime Brunch with the Bunny and photo op on Saturday, April 4, 2020 at Patterson Farm Market & Tours. Our Brunch with the Bunny is always a popular event! Tickets must be...

Cost: Ages 2 – 6: $10.00 includes tax Ages 6 – 12: $12.00 includes tax Ages: 13 – 54

Where:
Patterson Farm Inc. Market and Tours
10390 Caldwell Road
Mount Ulla, NC  28125
View map »


Sponsor: Patterson Farm Inc. Market and Tours
Telephone: 704-636-4005
Contact Name: Megan Hedrick
Website »

More information

Opportunities to explore all 4 levels of the mill don’t happen often! Learn the history of milling in North Carolina, test your mill trivia, and discover what interesting machinery is preserved...

Cost: $10/Adult; $8/Senior (ages 60+); $6/Child (ages 10-16);Registration is required

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Beavers are such busy creatures and have many unique features that allow them to survive in their aquatic world. Learn about their special adaptations through our "Build a Beaver" program then walk...

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

Join us for an egg-cellent time on the farm Saturday, April 4 & 11,  2020 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Explore the farm while you hunt for eggs and enjoy spring farm fun activities. Search for 12...

Cost: $10.00 for Hunters $7.00 for Non-Egg Hunters $6.00 for Non-Egg Hunters Senior (A

Where:
Patterson Farm Inc. Market and Tours
10390 Caldwell Road
Mount Ulla, NC  28125
View map »


Sponsor: Patterson Farm Inc. Market and Tours
Telephone: 704-636-4005
Contact Name: Megan Hedrick
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

The Town of Holly Spring's annual spring event, Spring Fling, is taking on a new location that has a nice ring to it. This year’s Spring Fling at Ting! will take place on Saturday, April 4 from...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Ting Park Baseball Stadium
1151 N. Main St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Town of Holly Springs
Contact Name: Rachel Downey

More information

Many wildflowers bloom in spring.  Join us for a leisurely hike through our fields and woods as we learn to recognize some blooming beauties and appreciate their stories. Age: 5yrs. and up;...

Cost: $2

Where:
Annie Louis Wilkerson. MD Nature Preserve Park
5229 Awls Haven Dr
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Bryan England
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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 (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

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


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Bring the whole family for this fun interactive Growga family class. Siblings and parents come together for a fun Growga hour, combining elements of our Little Sprouts and Growga Kids programs...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Community Farm at Chestnut Ridge
2902 Mt. Willing Road
Efland, NC  27243
View map »


Sponsor: Chestnut Ridge Camp & Retreat Center
Telephone: 919-304-2178
Contact Name: Erica Romkema
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Young children and their families are invited to participate in an interactive program with books, songs, movement, and other early literacy-based activities, carefully selected to engage an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village Regional Library
1930 Clark Avenue
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Wake County Public Libraries

More information

Garner Sports League Opening Day Ceremony will be held at South Garner Park at 9am on Saturday April 4, 2020.  Come join us as we kick off the Spring season for recreational baseball, fast-pitch...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
South Garner Park
1210 Poole Drive
Garner, NC  27529
View map »

More information

Topper the Bunny can’t wait to see you at the 5th Annual Egg-ceptional Egg Hunt at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC, features age-appropriate egg hunts with a grand finale airplane egg drop at 3pm...

Cost: 10

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
View map »


Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
Website »

More information

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