Birth Order Essay - Essay Prowess

Birth Order Essay

Birth Order


This paper seeks to discuss the birth order theory which attempts to define, describe and predetermine personality traits based on the order with which a sibling is in a family. Personality traits have been observed to differ with birth order such that the first born sibling in a family tends to have characters that are generally different from those exhibited in the middle and last born siblings.  There are factors that affect human personality other than birth order such as gender, socio economic status, level of education and so on. However, birth order has in itself created a niche for itself in the world of psychology since the 19th Century and literature material grew considerably in the 20th Century with the onset of deeper insight and study in the world of psychology. This paper will highlight discussions arising from results of numerous findings which have been made over the decades with regard to the theory of birth order.


The Birth Order Theory was first proposed by Sir Francis Galton in 1874 when his book titled English Men of Science was published. This theory proposes that each person is in some way or another affected by the order with which they were born that is either as a first, second, third born or last born (Walton, 2009). Sir Galton based this theory on his research on prominent personalities in positions of power where he observed that the largest group was composed of first born sons. He made reason of this by acknowledging that this was not purely by chance alone but also due to the proposed notion that birth order does have a significant effect on intelligence, success and many other outcomes.

The Birth Order Theory

Alfred Adler is considered as one of the most prominent Psychologists of the 21st Century as he forged the theory of Individual Psychology which proposes that all of mankind is born with a sense of helplessness and inferiority. As such, this theory put across the idea that human beings seek to be acceptance within the world around them which basically entails fighting for superiority. The desire to be accepted, he observed was what led to the development of individual personality. He concurred with the writings of Sir Francis Galton that birth order was indeed a major contributing factor to the fight for acceptance and the development of individual personality (Walton, 2009). Adler pointed out that older children were expected to be more mature and in most instances demonstrated a sense of resentment when other siblings were born into the family. Arguably, the youngest siblings were observed to be in such a position as to be spoilt never really being capable of outgrowing the title of baby in the family. Siblings in the middle on the other hand were observed to bear personalities which showed rebellion, exclusion, even tempered and in most instances are known to fiercely fight to find their place in society.

Effects on Personality

In the book Born to Rebel, Sulloway (1996) provided for the idea that personality attributes developed during childhood years serve to reconcile the relationship of birth order with what is considered as scientific radicalism (Marinia & Kurtzb, 2011). His research findings showed a consistency with the evolutionary theory such that as with mammals, human children do indeed fight for parental resources through the creation of distinctive niches. As such, children born as firstborns find themselves in an already established position which expects them to act responsibly, be competitive as well as expecting them to conform to conventional norms. Children born after the first born on the other hand tend to be playful, are generally cooperative and in some instances exhibit tendencies towards rebellious behaviors (Marinia & Kurtzb, 2011). This is usually their perceived means with which to distinguish themselves from other sibling in the family. It is worthy to note that research has indicated that children born after the firstborn who become scientist during adulthood tend to lean towards unconventional ideals leading to rather radical scientific revolutions as were the psychoanalysis and Darwinian evolutions.

Firstborn children are known to be dominant over younger siblings and more so receive more parental favor which in effect serves to bring about a development of personality characteristics which are generally consistent with parental interests. On the other hand, siblings born after the firstborn tend to seek to develop personality character traits which are essentially different from those exhibited by the firstborn as a means with which to attract more of the available parental resources (Marinia & Kurtzb, 2011).

Some aspects of Sulloway’s findings conform to the existing knowledge on human personality. The birth order theory provides a variable with which to distinguish siblings in a family with research findings on behavior genetics of personality upholding the importance on the significance of the occurrence of unshared environmental influences (Marinia & Kurtzb, 2011).

For many years, the Birth Order Theory has b

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