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Monday, 19 November 2012 19:00

How Does Birth Order Affect Personality?

The Toddle Along Tuesday topic this week is 'Birth Order' - initially, this got me thinking about my own 'order' of birth, the siblings I had and wished I had, and what I had 'planned' for my children in that regard.  When I looked at the details of the topic, however, it was asking about the idea that birth order affects a child's personality and whether or not I (the writer) agreed with this idea.

So, I'm going to talk about both...

My 'birth order' is a bit complicated... I was my biological mother's third child (she had a son and daughter) and my Dad's first.  Because my mother left when I was a baby, and kept my older siblings with her, they didn't really play a part in my childhood except that I always 'wished' they were around.  I didn't necessarily miss 'them' specifically, because I hardly knew them, but I did miss the idea of having older siblings - a big sister to learn about 'girly' things from, and an older brother to pick on me.  Yes, I really did want to be picked on...

So effectively, for seven years of my life, I was an only child.  Do I think that 'spoiled' me? Absolutely :) Although my 'spoiling' may have had more to do with the fact that I was a little bit pitied for not having a mother, so my family was probably more lenient than they should have been because of that.  I also had my Dad's younger siblings as almost-siblings (but WAY older) who spoiled me a bit also. I just got used to being everyone's 'little princess'.

Then, my Dad got married to my Mom who had a 4-year-old son (my brother).  Growing up, I don't think I would have said I liked having a little brother, and I always wanted a little sister, but looking back (I love that this topic forced me to do this) I have to say that little brothers are fun - and fun-ny! I think some of my greatest memories from childhood are actually 'great' because of my little brother.  I don't remember doing 'crazy' things as a child alone, but I did 'crazy' things with other kids - especially my brother.

I didn't have a lot of siblings, but I really do think that as a kid, more really is 'merrier' in a lot of ways.  If I thought it was practical for my family, I would probably choose to have more kids for this reason. Personally, and as a parent, I think (at this point) that I'm probably done with 2...

So, moving on...

Do I think birth order affects a child's personality? Simply put - yes.

This is sort of a 'nature vs. nurture' question, and I think reality is somewhere in the middle of those two - I think everyone is born with a personality that is all their own, and everything about their lives and surroundings - including how they are parented, and their siblings - 'tweaks' their personalities, adding to their uniqueness.

I'm already seeing a difference in our own daughters, how the amount of time I have for Audrey is different and the way I parent her is different because of Clara, so Audrey will come to see and expect different things from me than Clara did.  Audrey's personality already seems a bit more easy-going, especially when it comes to chaos and noise, because she's been surrounded by it more than Clara was.

Growing up, I remember taking note of certain characteristics I saw in the families around me.  It seemed to me, that the second child in the family was often a bit more outgoing than the first.  The first child was often more reserved and responsible, and the second more likely to take risks.  I think it's reasonable to assume that often the oldest child is given more responsibility sooner (probably right around when their younger sibling is born), and is possibly expected to engage in more independent play while their parents are taking care of the demands of an infant.  The younger sibling, also, is born into a family with siblings and is less likely to be comfortable 'alone', because they haven't been alone like their oldest sibling has.  Parents are often (in my experience) a bit more cautious with their first child, which might then make the child more cautious than their siblings as well.

This is a speculation and a stereotype, and I certainly don't think this is any sort of rule that all families follow - it is simply an example (that I have seen) of how children might be affected by birth order.

I remember years ago when I was babysitting for a family of three - the oldest two were girls who were close in age, and their younger brother was a few years younger than they were.  We were playing a game, and the boy began to get irritable because he was starting to lose.  His older sisters started casually 'handing him points' in order to let him win.  I'm not a fan of this - I think people need to learn to lose gracefully - so I asked the girls why they were doing this.  They informed me that it was just easier if they let him win, because then he would be happy.

This was the first time I realized that the 'youngest child syndrome' (the view that the youngest child in a family is often more 'spoiled' than older siblings) could possibly be caused by older siblings (not parents) giving the youngest what they want.  I found this interesting, because I realized at this moment that a person's siblings play as much of a role in shaping who they are as their parents do.

I find this subject fascinating, and could probably spend years studying it if someone would pay me to do so :)

How many siblings are in your family, and where do you fall? Has it affected your personality? Have your children's personalities been affected by their siblings?

Read 1727 times Last modified on Monday, 19 November 2012 16:16

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