Birth Order: How It Influences Your Life (Part 2)

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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?

Because less is expected from them, they can come to expect others to fix things or take responsibility for them. “First-borns usually had to figure things out for themselves if their parents didn't have the time, but the youngest often had elder siblings around to help them," says Auerbach.

“As adults, they can come to demand that help from people." However, from a work perspective, one big benefit of being a last-born is that you're more freed up to think outside the square, says Fuller. "Lastborns are not so burdened by the rules of a work organisation or society and, as a result, can take risks that pay off for them. Entrepreneurs who build an empire on the back of an idea they've just decided to run with are often last-born," she says.

Only-child

Only children share many similarities with first-borns: they're conscientious, diligent, mature and high-achieving. In fact, one leading US-based birth order expert calls only children 'super first-borns'.

What people need to know is that having an only child is a valid family choice. Happier parents mean a happier family overall.

What people need to know is that having an only child is a valid family choice. Happier parents mean a happier family overall.

Fuller says, "Like first-borns, only children get a lot of their parents' attention along with their anxieties." However, because no other siblings came along, an only child can feel like they're shouldering all their parents' hopes and expectations.

As an adult, an only child may find they work best when self-employed or running their own show. "An only child has the inner discipline to build up their own business, consult or go freelance, which also means they can determine how much contact they have with people," explains Fuller.

Love and Birth order

So how does birth order determine the success of your romantic relationships? Two partners sharing the same birth order can be the most problematic. "Two first-borns can often find their relationship plagued by tension caused by issues of control," says Fuller. "Two middle children can become so reasonable together that the relationship becomes a little stale, while two last-borns can run into trouble when children come along and one has to take more responsibility."

Pairing up a first and a last-born can also make for an anxious mix. "While first-borns like taking care of others, sometimes in this relationship they can feel like they're carrying all the burdens, while the last-born partner gets to be the life of the party," says Fuller. "On the other hand, the last-born can bring a lot of joy to the first-born because they can help them lighten up and not take life so seriously."

Two partners sharing the same birth order can be the most problematic

Two partners sharing the same birth order can be the most problematic

Middles are also great paired with a first or last-born. "Middle children understand what drives them," she adds. "They're also good at helping their first or last-born partner see that there's another way of dealing with issues so that it's a win-win situation. Only children also do well with middles as they can clash with first-borns and find last-borns a little exasperating."

Factors that can upset the balance

Of course, there are a few factors that can distort the way birth order works. Your gender, the age gap between you and your siblings and whether you grew up in a traditional or blended family can all muddle the way birth order works.

How you feel about your place in your family is also crucial. “The interesting thing about birth order is that recently researchers have started to take a closer look at psychological birth order, a key tenet of Adler’s theory that has been overlooked until more recent times,” explains clinical psychologist Dr Melissa Keogh.

The interesting thing about birth order is that recently researchers have started to take a closer look at psychological birth order

The interesting thing about birth order is that recently researchers have started to take a closer look at psychological birth order

Your psychological birth order is the position you ‘feel’ you occupy rather than your actual birth spot in the family, explains Keogh. “For instance, you could be the second of three, which is typically a middle child, but if your older sibling is 10 years older than you and your next sibling is a year younger than you, you might take on the role of a first-born child. In fact, research shows that around 60 per cent of people don’t identify with just one role.”

The reality is that birth order is just one factor in your life that guides who you become as an adult, says Keogh, and shouldn’t be considered the final nail in your destiny. “But it’s good to be aware of birth-order theory, particularly if it’s affecting you in a negative way. If you’re aware of what you’d like to change, you can do something about it.”

 
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