For one to comprehend the significance of birth order as a construct, it is essential to first understand the meaning of these terms separately. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a ‘construct’ as “a product of ideology, history, or social circumstances”. Birth order on the other hand refers to a person’s rank with regards to age among his or her siblings. It is believed that the placement of a child among his siblings often has a profound effect on the child’s psychological development (Leman, 2009). Understanding the usefulness of birth order as a construct therefore provides insights on certain behavioral patterns that are typical for certain groups of people. It sheds some light as to whether or not an individual is inclined to possess certain traits as a result of their birth order and to behave in a certain way.
Adler (1927) believed that how a parent responds to their child is largely influenced by the order of that child’s birth into the family. He argued that this inclination to treat a child in a certain way based on their birth order usually influences influence the child’s personality. Alder reckoned that “firstborn children are subjected to excessive attention due to being the firstborn”. In his works, Dr Leman argues that certain characteristics are common for children born in given ranks in the family.
In his view, firstborns in most families are regarded as leaders, and they are often expected to be of exemplary character so as to have a positive influence on their younger siblings. For instance, “because more is expected of eldest children, they often expect more of themselves later in life”. This personality trait often influences their career choices (Rutherford, 2009). Middle children on their part often seem to have a laid back personality. They do not emerge vocal in their personalities. He argues that lastborns tend to be “babied” and this may lead them to remain dependent on their families, longer than their siblings.
However, Dr. Leman advances a number of variables that can influence a child’s personality regardless of their birth order. These include the spacing between children, the gender of the child, and certain physical differences. Dr. Leman further presents the idea of a “critical-eyed parent” as a variable. Where the first born grows up with a parent who overly criticizes his character, a reverse often happens, and instead of being a perfectionist, the child becomes sloppy in his or her character.
I am the first born in a family of three children and I have always been called a perfectionist. For me, this comes from a need to be a role model to my younger siblings and to provide them with guidance. There have been numerous times when my parents actually remind me that my younger siblings look up to me. I have therefore taken it upon myself to be the most responsible among my siblings since more is expected of me. In many instances, I have also been required to make critical decisions on their behalf. Interestingly, our middle child and the last born similarly possess traits that have been termed as “typical” for their birth order.
In light of the above analysis, the usefulness of birth order as a construct is beneficial in understanding an individual’s personality. Evidently, the stereotypes regarding why certain character traits are ostensibly uniform for children born in a given rank in the family actually have a psychological backing. The illustration of my personality being in line with the traits attributed under birth order psychology verifies that there is some measure of truth in these theories. However, as illustrated in the above discussion, this is subject to a few variables. Birth order as a construct is therefore important in determining the adaptive or maladaptive role each child plays within the family unit and it plays a critical role in influencing an individual’s persona.