Birth Order and How It Shapes Our Lives

in Uncategorized
February 28th, 2018


We’ve all heard these stereotypes: firstborns are usually more conscientious, disciplined, and ambitious since their parents are stricter with them; middle children tend to be peacemakers, competitive but understanding; youngest children are generally more outgoing and free-spirited.

Although whether birth order significantly affects personality traits is not conclusive, research has shown that birth order plays a powerful role in job success. A number of studies have found that firstborns and only children are more likely to be in high-achieving professions such as law and medicine as well as leadership positions such as CEOs and U.S. presidents. Examples include Winston Churchill, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Clinton. On the other hand, laterborns are overrepresented among successful athletes in general. While their older siblings tend to do better academically, laterborns often choose to strive for difference and create their own niche.

Joseph Doyle, an MIT economist, studied how birth order impacts delinquency. The research focuses on boys because they have a much higher chance of getting in serious trouble as teenagers than girls do. The results indicate that the second-born children, compared to their older siblings, are 25 to 40 percent more likely to go to prison, get suspended in school, and enter the criminal justice system. So what sets second-born boys apart from their older brothers? Doyle suggests that parenting is an important factor. Parents tend to give more attention to their firstborns and divide their time and resources as more children come along. Another possible explanation is that firstborns and laterborns, despite sharing the same family and environment, have different role models early in life. Firstborns look up to adults, whereas laterborns look up to their older siblings, who are often two- or three-year-olds.

Birth order certainly shapes our lives in many ways and reveals unseen and interesting patterns. However, it is worth noting that birth order is not absolutely deterministic of who we are. For instance, many firstborns are good at sports, and many world political leaders are younger siblings.

Writer: Zijing Sang

Editor: Sophia Hon


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