Does My Child’s Birth Order Affect Their Personality? Sources say YES!

You may wonder how children raised by the same parents, with the same education, and home environment can be so different.

Part of the answer may lie in their birth order. That’s right. Your child’s birth order may affect their personality and the roles they take within your family, influencing your entire family’s dynamic.

Not only that but your and your partner’s birth order can impact the way you parent each child.

Let’s delve into the theory of birth order and the personality traits linked to it – it’s pretty interesting stuff!

What is Birth Order Theory?

First developed by Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Adler in the early 1900s, birth order theory proposes that an individual’s personality develops based on their birth order within a family.

Adler believed birth order could significantly affect a person’s personality and life outcomes, such as having a successful career or education.

He also introduced the concept of “psychological birth order” to explain a child’s position within their family as perceived by them deeming it more influential than the actual numerical birth order.

This means that if the firstborn child has a mental or physical disability, then the second or middle child takes on the role of the eldest child to compensate for their inability to fulfil their role.

Nowadays, birth order is considered one of several factors that significantly influence personality, including genetics, gender, temperament, and parenting styles.

There have been many studies on Adler’s birth order theory. However, some of the research has been unreliable with conflicting results.

Personality Traits by Birth Order

Firstborn Child

Firstborns tend to be high achievers. And since they have their parents’ undivided attention from the moment they are born, they usually excel academically and score higher on IQ tests.

Brothers - birth order theory
Source: Bigstock

Firstborns can also be:

  • Natural leaders
  • Responsible
  • Mini adults
  • Perfectionist
  • Goal-setters
  • Determined
  • Rule keepers
  • Detail-oriented and organized
  • Reliable
  • Conscientious


Because firstborn children are often raised by trial and error, parents can often be strict with the rules and a bit overanxious.

As a result, firstborn children develop a type A personality, leading them to have an intense fear of failure and making mistakes, to be hesitant to step out of their comfort zone and to feel like they’re never good enough.

When more siblings come into the picture, parents often give more responsibilities to the eldest child, adding to the stress they already feel to be perfect.

Firstborn children are often bossy, controlling, inflexible, and anxious.

Secondborn or Middle Child

Second or middle children are often the peacemakers of the family. They are also good at negotiating since they have to deal with the eldest and youngest siblings in their family. Oftentimes, these children are raised in a more relaxed environment compared to the way firstborns were raised.

three happy young boys, siblings
Photo: Bigstock

Secondborn and middle child can also be:

  • More flexible
  • Diplomatic
  • Free spirits
  • Friendlier – having more friends than siblings
  • Generous
  • Competitive


Secondborn and middle kids can be somewhat rebellious. In fact, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “remarkably consistent” data revealed that secondborn children are considerably more likely to get into trouble than their siblings.

Because secondborn children and middle kids often lack the parental attention they need, they end up questioning their worth and who they are. As a result, they may feel less bonded to their family.

Read more: Got 2 Boys? Study Confirms your Second Born is Likely to be a Real Sh*t Stirrer

Youngest Child

The youngest kids are typically fun-loving and independent. They are often viewed as outgoing charmers. They tend to love trying new things and often do what they want to do.

youngest child the most fun - birth order theory
Source: Bigstock

They can also be:

  • Persistent
  • Creative
  • Uncomplicated
  • Risk-takers


Since the youngest children often have more freedom, they tend to challenge authority and are attention seekers.

Oftentimes they feel as if nothing they do is significant because their parents have already experienced it all with their older siblings.

And since their parents tend to coddle them, the youngest child tends to be less responsible and wind up wishing they were older instead of being viewed as a baby forever.

Only Child

Only children tend to be mature for their age, most likely because they grow up with adults without the company or influence of other children in the household.

birth order and only children
Source: Bigstock

Much like firstborn children, they tend to be:

  • Perfectionists
  • Diligent
  • Conscientious
  • Good leaders


Only children usually dominate their parents’ attention and resources. They also have difficulty sharing their possessions and tend to feel lonely.

Why Birth Order Can Matter

As a parent, understanding how your birth order shapes your personality can also impact the way you nurture and raise your children. Learning about birth order can help parents understand what makes their children tick and the roles they take within the family structure.

Take the time to nurture the individual characteristics that make them tick and help them overcome their particular challenges.

Your firstborn may need a little help understanding they don’t have to be perfect or control everything. Your secondborn may need a little help understanding that they don’t need to WIN everything and that not everything is a race (a tough one for competitive secondborns!). And your thirdborn may need a bit of help gaining responsibility around the house.

It’s also a good idea to take a look at the different Child Temperaments, and how this can impact your little one.

What to read next

Avatar of Gloria Ramirez

Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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