Birth order is defined as how a person ranks by age among his or her siblings. This is determined by how parents decide to separate their children. Birth order has been heavily linked with the psychological development of individuals. Many theories have been researching to relate birth order and personality traits of individuals in their lifestyles (Sulloway, 1997). It has been observed that children in their lives are competing for parental resources by developing different characteristics respectively.
It has been noted that firstborns’ behavior is not similar to that of the younger siblings. Firstborn have been found to be more responsible, competitive, good leaders since they are more power oriented, cooperative, organized and emotionally intense than the laterborns. This has been attributed to the first love received from parents who are mainly young at time of birth. And give more attention to the only child they have. Many parents always spent a lot of time with their firstborn child. This has been thought to greatly influence the personality traits of the firstborn child. As opposed to their older siblings the middleborns tend to be more playful, agreeable and more open. The middle born are also good mediators, they tend to have fewer problems; they set unrealistic goals which they usually fail to archive, and they are people that are pleasers, calm and always go with the flow. This is thought to be brought up by the fact that they try to catch up the firstborn (Leman, 2009). The second born child always tries to still the limelight from its older sibling.
In a research carried out in the United States by the National Centre of Health Statistics it was found that youngborns exhibit a different trait of personality as compared to the middle born and the first born. Youngborns are always good entertainers, attention seekers; they tend to be more selfish, they always love to be pampered, are usually lazy and spoiled. However lastborns were found to be more dependable and open to experience. (Krohn, 2000) This was attributed to the fact that many youngborns enjoyed a good relationship with the parents. During this time parents were always aging and had lost the “sharpness” in disciplining children. Parents tended to enjoy the feeling of having the youngborns around them. Many mothers always remained at home with the lastborns when the elder siblings were at school.
Another fascinating finding is about children who are the only child in families. The child learns to rely only on him/herself since a very tender age, they really don’t have any difficulties to play a role of loners and at extreme cases some of them find it a comfort. The only child has no competition for parents’ attention and is often pampered, which later cause’s interpersonal difficulties. (Isaacson, & Radish, 2002) These children having no other siblings to blame always take much more internal responsibilities for their deeds and actions. The need to be sociable is lower among the only children.
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Temperament as a characteristic has been closely connected to the birth order. Temperament can be represented as a sum of features that emerge in the early childhood. This can be further divided into three separate categories: level of activity, emotionality and sociability. This is a crucial question as due to what reasons siblings that are brought up in the same family and social environment appear to be so different. Depending on the family niche of the individual, revolutionary personality of an individual can be either promoted or hindered by shyness. Such niches but not only the innate dispositions determine an individual’s final personality (Forer, 1969). Shyness makes firstborns much more open to different experiences; however the opposite is true for lastborns. Temperament is well characterized by dominance niches and family hierarchy. The overlapping birth order and size of sibship is shaped by the hierarchical politics.
Many psychology studies have observed the outgoing and shy behavior of children in the age of two. Behavioral signs were considered when a child clung to the mother and tried to avoid any object that was unfamiliar to him/her. The nurture and nature work hand in hand to determine which child would become shy and which would not. It was observed that two thirds of the lastborns were shy children and two third of firstborn children were extraverts (Cuffe, & Johnson, 2002). It was hypothesized that older children who terrorized their younger sisters and brothers with aggressive actions and treatment might alter their initial temperament to a type of behavior that with time is recognized to be shyness.
It is sound to associate shyness with the birth order, but the consequences of it can be changed with years and depend on sibship size and age spacing. Research also indicates that older siblings are less reserved than younger children (Angst, & Ernst, 1983). A two year old child is more intimidated by a four year old but this may not be the case with the same year olds at teen age.
Findings have given a conflicting encounter even though the birth order has been concerned in terms of shyness. These results contradict each other because birth order interacts with other family features. The children older than their closest siblings in three-four years are the most temperamental extraverts. This age difference is also responsible for maximizing many other personalities. It has been observed that the smaller the age gaps is the less shy younger siblings are. In small sibship birth order does not determine shyness. As the size of the sibship increases later born are more reserved and the firstborns are more outgoing. To overcome shyness one should perform an individual transformation, this is much more likely to take place among the younger siblings who have managed to rebel against the dominant brother/sister successfully (Leman, 1998). Shyness as a trait makes individuals not express their tendencies that they would express under other circumstances according to the order of birth.
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Although there are many theories explaining the link between birth orders, many research findings have come up with conflicting information about the problem. There is a tangible theory that adequately explains this phenomenon. However this theories have shade a lot of light on the relationship.