Birth Order: How It Influences Your Life (Part 1)

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Are you the eldest, middle, youngest or only child in your family? Patricia Flokis finds out what birth order can predict about you?

If you've ever stopped to think how your place in the family has affected you, you'll be interested to learn more about birth order. Where you sit in the sibling line-up - oldest, middle, last, and only -not only has an impact on your personality but, ultimately, it shapes you as an adult.

The order in which one is born sometimes influences their personality. Birth order can shape personalities

The order in which one is born sometimes influences their personality. Birth order can shape personalities.

The birth-order theory was first proposed by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Alder a century ago, and has intrigued psychologists (and us) ever since. But exactly how much impact does your birth order have on your life? More than what you might think, says psychologist Meredith Fuller. "Birth order can give you an important insight into how you view yourself, what drives you, the type of partner you might be, the career choices you might make and why you react to certain situations the way you do," she explains.

Clinical psychologist Vera Auerbach agrees that birth order can be a useful tool when it comes to understanding yourself and the choices you make. "I would say that it's worth taking a little time to reflect on how your position in the family might have influenced your psychological development, because the more conscious you are the less likely you are to make decisions about your life blindly"

So what do we need to know about birth order to understand ourselves better? Read on to find out.

First-born

If you're a typical first-born, you're responsible, conscientious and reliable, often because you were expected to look after your younger siblings and set a good example.

“First-borns also tend to be more independent, more self-contained, perfectionistic and achievement-oriented," says Fuller. “They're also better at delaying gratification, which is why we tend to see them interested in further study or working on developing their skills with more perseverance. They are often leaders in their workplaces or leaders in their field for this reason"

In fact, the most recent study on birth order, from the UK's University of Essex, confirms this by finding that first-borns are 16 per cent more likely to pursue a higher education than their younger siblings. Also, first-born women were found to be 13 per cent more ambitious than first-born men.

First-borns also tend to be more independent, more self-contained, perfectionistic and achievement-oriented

First-borns also tend to be more independent, more self-contained, perfectionistic and achievement-oriented

“The first-born is the child that makes you into a parent, so you have a lot of anxieties with your first child that you don't have with subsequent children" says Auerbach. “In that regard, first-borns can be loaded up with a bit more of their parents' struggle to find their own feet"

This means that first-borns are usually driven by anxiety, says Fuller. “They tend to worry about what can go wrong, which can make it hard for them to enjoy things, including their successes" she says. “It's often said that first-borns and only children live to work rather than work to live, so it's important to get your work-life balance right"

Middle-child

“Middle children usually get the least attention, but they often turn into self-reliant, relaxed and reasonable adults," explains Fuller. What you have also developed as a middle child is great negotiating and mediating skills. “Middle children are fantastic at improving relationships with people," she says. “People will often come to them if they're having difficulties and they're often the referee if there are any dramas going on in the family."

It's also a misconception that middles lack the drive of first-borns. “I call middle children the quiet achievers," says Fuller. “They often end up doing really well in their lives because they have the capacity to just get on with things while everyone else is complaining or making a big fuss. On the flipside, they'll often work very hard and not know when they've done enough. They just keep going till they drop. Middles need to learn to articulate their needs and learn to say 'no' more often."

“I call middle children the quiet achievers," says Fuller

“I call middle children the quiet achievers," says Fuller

Auerbach adds that many middles can remain sensitive about their odd-one-out status even as adults. “Middles are usually the ones that can read too much into two colleagues going out for lunch without inviting them along," she says.

Last-born

Often talked about as 'the baby' of the family, the last child tends to be more looked after or adored. “They also tend to be the jokers of the family, which is why many entertainers and comedians are last-born," says Fuller.

 
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