The Effects of Birth Order

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Does birth order have an effect on personality? Does being first born make people more responsible? If someone is the middle born child, are they going to be more rebellious? If people are last born are they more likely to be on television? Are first born children inconsiderate and selfish or reliable and highly motivated? These, and many other questions are being thoroughly studied by psychologists (Harrigan, 1992). In 1923, the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adler, wrote that a person's position in the family leaves an undeniable "stamp" on his or her "style of life" (Marzollo, 1990). Research has shown that birth order does indeed affect a child; however, it does not automatically shape personality. If it did, life would be much more predictable and a great deal less interesting (Marzollo, 1990). Yogi Bera, a famous baseball player, said "Every now and then a reporter who thinks he is Freud asks me if being the youngest is why I made it (playing professional baseball). I almost alw ays say yes, but I don't think it had anything to do with it" (Harrigan, 1992). Birth order doesn't explain everything about human behavior. Personality is affected by many different factors, such as heredity, family size, the spacing and sex of siblings, education, and upbringing. However, there is an awful lot of research and plain old "law of averages" supporting the affect of birth order on personality (Leman, 1985). There are four basic classifications of birth order: the oldest, the only, the middle, and the youngest. Each has its own set of advantages, as well as its own set of disadvantages. While the birth order factor isn't always exact, it does give many clues about why people are the way they are (Leman, 1985). If there is one word that describes first born children it would be "perfectionist" (Harrigan, 1992). First born children tend to be high achievers in whatever they do. Some traits customarily used to label first born children include reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, critical, serious, scholarly (Leman, 1985), self-assured, good leadership ability, eager to please, and nurturing (Brazelton, 1994). Also, first born children seem to have a heightened sense of right and wrong. It is common in most books about birth order that first born children get more press than only, middle, and youngest children. This... ... middle of paper ... ...ute as a darling little baby, but the next minute she's compared unfavorably with an older sibling. He or she is often unfairly compared with older and stronger siblings. According to Beverly Hills-based psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, M.D., the self-image of the youngest child may become confused (Lanning, 1991). As a result of conflicting experiences, youngest children can be extremely self-confident in someways and insecure in others (Leman, 1985). For the most part, youngest children learn to cope with the problems of self-doubt. In fact, youngest children often go on to become quite successful, thanks in part to their originality and determination to prove themselves to the world (Lanning, 1991). Often, they express their unique view of the world through the visual or literary arts. People-pleasing fields, such as art, comedy, entertainment and sales are full of youngest children (Lanning, 1991). Some examples of famous youngest children include Ronald Reagan (president, actor), Eddie Murphy (comedian), Paul Newman (actor), Mary Lou Retton (gymnast), Billy Crystal (comedian), Yogi Bera (baseball player), Ted Kennedy (politician), and Kevin Leman (psychologist)
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