Sibling relationships

How birth order shapes personality traits.

I grew up in a big family. I am the eighth of nine children, not the youngest, but I still claim the “baby” position and my younger brother does not fight that battle. I have always been close to all my brothers and sisters emotionally, but not so close in distance. I have two children of my own, one boy, and one girl. My brothers and sisters all have different numbers of children ranging from nine, five and three. As our family has grown, it is interesting to see the different interactions between us as adult siblings and the next generation of siblings.

Michigan State University Extension has resources and articles to help people improve their lives and relationships with others. Although I feel I am somewhat of a homegrown expert on sibling relationships, there is quite a bit of research based information out there on the topic of siblings. Many theories talk about birth order and how that affects relationships and behavior.

To date, most of those studies agree on the following traits of birth order:

Older siblings tend to be reliable, structured and can be somewhat controlling. This is in part due to the fact that they have new, inexperienced parents who parent by the book, with intense focus on every detail of childrearing. First borns are also more apt to be over achievers and perfectionist.

When I reflect on my own siblings, my oldest brother is reliable and structured, but I don’t see him as controlling or a perfectionist. So, in our family this may not be the case. Although, my mother always said the first child is the experimental model. You make most of your mistakes and learn.

Middle children seem to get somewhat lost in the shuffle. They aren’t in either spot of the coveted first born or the doted baby of the family. They pick up pretty quickly that parental attention is usually elsewhere, either on the oldest or the youngest. Therefore they tend to be the people-pleasers, peacemakers and thrive on friendships. They can tend to be more rebellious – perhaps as another way to stand out in the sibling crowd.

I guess technically, I am a middle child, but never thought of myself as such, so I can’t speak to that personally. I do remember my oldest complaining when he was around 9-years-old that he was like a middle child because I paid all my attention to either my husband or my daughter. Not sure if that fits either, but he was somewhat rebellious!

The last born child tends to be the free spirit, due to the fact that parents have figured things out and tend to be more relaxed in their parenting style. Therefore last born is more fun loving and outgoing. They can also be self-centered and avid attention seekers.

This is where I think I really belong! I am seen as the fun loving free spirit of the family. I admit to loving to be the center of attention. So, maybe I agree with some of the research on birth order as it relates to personality traits. Where do you fit in? Only child? Check back for a follow-up article on the only child. 

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