Childrearing

What Your Birth Order Says About You

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shutterstock_45612637Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know by now that the order in which you were born in your family shapes your personality. I can attest to that because I am the annoying oldest child to a T. I’m responsible, I’m scheduled, I’m organized, I can be obsessive, and I often boss my brother and sister around and drive them crazy.

Of course, not all stereotypes are 100% true, but it’s pretty interesting to see what your birth order says about you—kinda like reading your horoscope. If anything, you can use your birth order in the family as justification for why you act the way you do. If you throw a hissy fit because your dad won’t let you carve the turkey on Thanksgiving “just this once,” you are obviously the baby of the family. If you sit and brood during family fights and run out in the yard to smoke cigarettes behind the shed later, congratulations—you’re a middle child.

Are these birth order stereotypes fact or fiction? Here’s what your birth order says about you:

1. Oldest Child: You’re a cautious, controlling, over-achieving, perfectionist, and nobody does it better than you.

Translation: Your sibs think you are ANNOYING AS FUCK and don’t deserve all of the privileges in the family.

Prediction For The Month: Your younger siblings will try to overthrow your leadership role by boycotting your monthly family brunch with Grandma catered at your house. You’ll get the last laugh when Grandma slips you a $50 for being the only grandchild to show up.

2. Middle Child: You are the face of “middle child syndrome.” Most often, you feel overlooked and rejected as the child caught in the middle in the house.

Translation: Nobody in your family recognizes your awesome-sauce. You plot how you will graduate with honors and start your own brilliant entrepreneurial-dotcom-biz from the privacy of your secret hiding spot behind the shed as you chain-smoke cigarettes.

Prediction For The Month: Don’t attend that stupid, boring Grandma brunch. Your older sister is a spotlight-hogging bitch.

3. Youngest Child: You are often called the “baby of the family” and bask in pampering and special treatment from your parents and older siblings. Expect even more favor if you are the baby of a very large family. Milk it for all it’s worth.

Translation: You may never have to pay for a meal, but everyone in your family thinks you’re a mooch. Not to fear, you can work this to your advantage. Every time you do something even remotely adult, like paying your bills on time, your parents will send out a newsletter in your honor.

Prediction For The Month: Claim that you will attend the boring Grandma brunch until the very last second, and then bail for a Netflix marathon. No one will call you on your shit anyway. It’s the perfect crime.

(Image: arek_malang/Shutterstock)

42 Comments

  1. Valerie

    July 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I’m like, a happy hippie version of an oldest. I def fit most of those characteristics but I’m also pretty easy going with my brothers and I rarely tell them what to do. This was interesting, Beth! Nice post!

  2. JenH1986

    July 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    There is actually a whole approach in counseling on how to interact with people based on their birth order.

    • Valerie

      July 1, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      That makes sense. It really does make a difference.

    • JenH1986

      July 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      It was one of my favorite parts of that class. Learning about the different approaches and what each order really looks like. I know a lot of counselors who actually ask about birth order in their DAFs

  3. Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    July 1, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I’m an oldest and definitely have those characteristics, but I do try to fight the urge to boss my siblings around. I’m not always successful. 🙂

  4. JessBakesCakes

    July 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Since I’m a psychology nerd who has studied developmental stages and birth order a WHOLE BUNCH, I love this post. So much of it is psychological, but a lot of it is the environment you grow up in. As a first born, I’m definitely an overachieving perfectionist. My sister is definitely “the baby” in the family. But she got all the privileges, and got away with everything. Best example: She used to throw things at me from across the room while I was trying to sleep (we shared a room). I ignored it until I finally snapped, and I got in trouble, because I was the oldest and I should “know better”. #oldestkidproblems

    Great article 🙂

    • Bethany Ramos

      July 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks! I am the perfectionist oldest kid all the way.

    • UterineDudebroWhoLikesOlives

      July 1, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      I’m an oldest/only child too. I got the “you should know better” argument all the time too.

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      July 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      And I think that mindset from parents kind of sucks, you know what I mean? Kids are going to do crappy things no matter the order in which they were born into the family.

    • Quinn Skye

      July 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      OMFGffdhdbf. “You’re older, you should know better!” ::explode::

      Oldest sucks. Player one privileges and immunity from the middle seat in the car. That’s it.

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    • Elann

      July 2, 2014 at 2:01 am

      I didn’t even get that immunity, though mine’s a bit more unusual (only child until I was 12, second sib born when I was nearly 16)

      Until I went away to University, I had the middle seat because it only had a lap belt, and the car seats were either side.

      It hurt. That’s all.

    • jerseygirl17

      July 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm

      YES! My younger sister used to try to kick my ass and I was supposed to ignore it. Ignoring it made her try harder and it’s hard to ignore objects flying at your head.

  5. Larkin

    July 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I’m a youngest child, but I feel like I have a decent number of oldest child traits thrown in there too (neuroticism, perfectionism, drive to impress people, etc.). I wonder if it has to do with the space between my brothers and me. I’m nine years younger than the younger of my two brothers so really, in a lot of ways, I think I got a more laid back version of the only child treatment growing up… that might account for my weird mix of youngest and oldest personality traits. Ha.

  6. Jessie

    July 1, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    … Did you do a study on my family? Because you just described my older brother, me, and my younger sister to a goddamned T.

  7. Kendra

    July 1, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I feel like I seem like I have classic middle-child syndrome, but I’m not actually that way if you get to know me.

  8. Obladi Oblada

    July 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I’m the middle child but I act more like the oldest. I think it’s because I’m the oldest girl. Where I’m from, more is expected from the eldest girl. I had to babysit the younger ones while my parents worked. My older brother did not. I had to make sure the younger ones had their chores done before mom came home. My older brother did not. I had to make sure the younger ones had a good breakfast and lunch while they were gone. My older brother did not. He wasn’t/isn’t a slacker. He’s a successful business owner now and was a good kid growing up. It just wasn’t expected of him. I’m glad now that I had to do all that stuff because it taught me how to run a household. I teach my kids the same thing but it’s the boys AND the girls. They all look after each other instead of one being in charge.
    Oh how times have changed…

  9. Melissa

    July 1, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I am such a middle child–totally used to sneak rage cigarettes and mope around feeling misunderstood. My opinion also never counts in family decisions because I’m expected to be the easygoing, people-pleasing one. But because I’m the only girl with two brothers, I’m also known as “the spoiled one”. Just because I’m in my 30s and married with two kids and my dad still sometimes pays to have maintenance done on my car (and never does this for my brothers) doesn’t make me spoiled, right? Right?? 🙂

  10. 2Well

    July 1, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I’m the oldest of a bunch of half siblings, not all of whom I grew up with, and I was 11 when the one I grew up with was born. So I am a perfectionist and control freak, but also the most disorganized person ever. I’m mostly exactly punctual, but rarely early and rarely late. I’m pretty sure my brothers hate me because apparently absentee father still felt proud enough of his absence to brag about how well I was doing without him, so I was an example to follow.

    At least my sister is free to be her own person.

  11. lpag

    July 1, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    See, I don’t really fit any of the stereotypes- I was an only for a very long time, and my siblings are so much younger than me I never really had a rivalry with them. My husband, though, is a middle child (2nd of four), and hits EVERY middle child stereotype there is. A classic, textbook case of middle-child syndrome. Oh, and he and his siblings repeat a lot of old patterns from childhood. They are actually amazingly close and best friends and all, but I still catch my BIL “looking out” for my husband to keep him out of “trouble”, because that was his role as a child. And it’s hilarious because my husband got a lucrative job right out of college while BIL went to grad school and got a crap job a year after graduating and we have 2 kids to BIL’s zero, so my husband is, you can say, quite a bit ahead in the life experience department, and his big brother still worries about keeping him in line 🙂

    • UterineDudebroWhoLikesOlives

      July 1, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      I’m an oldest/only too. I was an only child until about age 7. There is a 7, 11, and 12-year age difference respectively between me and my siblings, and I don’t feel I fit any of the stereotypes. However, my next youngest sister definitely hits that oldest child stereotype, the next sister is definitely the “middle kid” in every way, and my brother, the youngest, is definitely the “baby.” So make of that what you will.

      My husband is the youngest, but you’d never guess it by the way he acts. He totally fits the oldest child stereotype to a T. I’m kind of fascinated by why that may be.

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      July 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      I think there is a age differential limit on how much you fit within the descriptions of oldest, middle, and youngest. I think if the age difference is more than a certain amount (I want to say 5 – 6 years?), then it starts over…or something like that. I just know that my counselor told me that since my brothers were so much older than me (8 and 11 years), then I was going to have more characteristics of an only than a youngest because it was like my parents were starting a new family thread when they had me.

    • whiteroses

      July 3, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      My husband is the oldest of four. I will never forget the time my BIL did something incredibly stupid and my husband, who is about six inches shorter than my BIL, managed to reach up and slap him upside the head.

      My husband is a typical oldest. My BIL and the older of my two SILs are both classic middle children, and my youngest SIL is definitely the baby of the family- everything she does must be encouraged, applauded and admired.

      As an only child, I find it utterly exhausting, but also psychologically fascinating. It’s completely out of the realm of my experience, so I just let them do their thing and observe it. That is, until one of my SILs encourages me to have another kid so my son won’t be “one of those weirdo only children”.

  12. NoMissCleo...JustMe

    July 1, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I find birth order absolutely fascinating because I’ve found that it’s usually pretty spot on with most families. I’m the VERY youngest of three and although I do have some youngest characteristics, I’m mostly an only because my brothers were out of the house by the time I was in elementary school.

    • JessBakesCakes

      July 1, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      It’s amazing how you have both sets of characteristics… I just love birth order/psychology so much. There’s so much complexity and general awesomeness to people.

    • NoMissCleo...JustMe

      July 1, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      I’ve certainly got the “I’m awesome and wonderful” confidence (and competition) traits of the youngest child, but at the same time I am very bossy, organized, and assertive like the eldest child (or only). My brothers are much more the archetypical eldest and middle children whereas I’m the hybrid….but then again, like I tell my parents, once they got to their best child they decided to stop. Ha, ha, ha!

    • allisonjayne

      July 2, 2014 at 9:55 am

      I’m in the same boat. I am the baby of my family, but I’m also the only baby my parents had together, so I’ve got 3 half-siblings who are 10+ years older than me and my parents didn’t have custody of them for most of my childhood. So I was basically an only, but with a bit of baby.

      Which, according to my darling sisters, makes me basically the most entitled spoiled brat ever.

  13. NotTakenNotAvailable

    July 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    I’d heard that onlies are supposed to have the traits of oldest children, but with an extra dose of independence and self-confidence thrown in. I’d say the “extra dose” is true for me, but I dunno about the oldest-child traits–certainly all the times I’ve had to restrain myself from shouting, “JESUS, DAD, I’M TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS OLD!” speak to my feeling that I’ll always be the baby no matter how many degrees I get or writings I sell!

  14. jenni

    July 1, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    What about us only children? We get no love on the psychology/birth order front?

    Also, it is weird how this stuff kind of applies when there are large age gaps between siblings, but at the same time doesn’t apply at all. My husband is 5 years younger than his sister and 15 years younger than his brother. So, they are all basically only children, but with a bit of flavoring of their birth order.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      July 1, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      I wonder if the overall lack of comment on only children is because we’re a fairly recent phenomenon, since prior to reliable birth control, one generally had multiples or fertility issues. We’re also still relatively uncommon, if the tongue-clucking parents of onlies receive about their decision to turn their kid into a selfish spoiled brat by depriving them of a sibling is anything to go by.

    • whiteroses

      July 3, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      We’re called “superoldest”- basically all the oldest child traits with an OCD twist.

  15. Megan

    July 1, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    I’m a middle child through and through. My sister and brother fit their respective roles quite well, also. Although my sister was the one who got away with murder when we were kids… She’d stay out til 4 or 5 in the morning during the week and nary a word from our parents about it. Whereas I would have to call when I got wherever I was going and call when I was coming back (always before midnight).

  16. Jallun-Keatres

    July 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Unfortunately for me, this thing is bull. I’m physically the youngest but mentally the oldest so I fit nowhere. My sister was not the pioneer when it came to boys, cars, middle school, curfew, etc, and by the time I was old enough to “babysit” her she was mature enough not to run off. I’m the oldest, youngest, and “second-born” as it’s put in some of these charts, all at the same time!

    • JessBakesCakes

      July 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      You’re definitely right. Psychologically, it’s not a given. Different families have different dynamics. Plus, I just love the general awesomeness and complexity in one person. So many layers!

  17. Edify

    July 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    My husband is the eldest and I was thinking that I wouldn’t really use or many of those words to describe him. And then I thought about his younger brother… I guess it’s a matter of perspective!

  18. Jamie

    July 1, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    I think this is so, so fascinating and I’m really interested in watching how this plays out in my family. My toddler is 10, 9, and 6 years younger than her half-siblings. I’m expecting twins this fall. And my husband and I have decided to revisit the idea of more kids in three or four years.

  19. C.J.

    July 1, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I’m the oldest, I can be a perfectionist but I never had an interest in controlling my siblings. My sister is 4 years younger than me and 4 years older than our brother. She resented us both. She didn’t like that I could do things before her and hated our brother for being the baby. She got the most attention from our parents because she needed it the most. My brother and I were much more independent and social. My brother definitely got away with more than my sister and I but my parents were still strict with him. He is very responsible and definitely not a mooch.

  20. KaeTay

    July 2, 2014 at 1:11 am

    well I’m the second oldest of 6 so that makes me an “oldest” .. it pretty much fits me. I take charge, I am considered uptight because I stress myself out so much.. and my sisters don’t like my no nonsense attitude.

  21. AnnH

    July 2, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Not even close. In my (admittedly abusive) family, being the first child was being the bad person. You do something wrong ? You’re setting a bad example. You’re abused and your little sister starts crying while she witnesses it ? She has a tender heart and she’s a better daughter than you. You’re getting average grades ? You’ll never amount to anything, at least your kid sister will be a doctor or something. My father predicted that I’d become a cashier at the local equivalent of Walmart and get pregnant with the first guy who’d take me, but my sister was going to be our pride and joy.
    So many things come into play other than birth order or blood type or astrological sign or whatever.

  22. guest

    July 2, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    I love looking at sibling-family-birth order dynamics. I’m a middle child and was always trying to go above and beyond my older brother. He did better at everything for some time but as an adult I’m far better. My younger brother is the totally typical baby. He is only about 18 months younger but in reality its more like 5+ years mentally. My parents still coddle him and he lives at home. My older brother actually wants to move home (and sell his home!) to pay off bills. I think they’re both spoiled.

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