Question sam Social Sciences

The effect of birth order on personality

what are the effects birth order has on personality ?

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Answer Internal Staff

The order in which a child is born in a family – oldest, middle or youngest – has long been thought to have an effect on central personality traits possessed by a person. Certain traits or tendencies are associated with a person depending on their place in the order of birth within their family. For example:

_Oldest child: A natural leader (sometimes bossy), ambitious, cautious and reliable.

Middle child: A peacemaker, a people-pleaser, and a social butterfly.

Youngest child: Outgoing, free-spirited, and sometimes manipulative.

Only child: Mature, a natural leader (sometimes bossy), and a perfectionist._

Proponents of this theory do acknowledge that birth order is not definite: for example, a large age gap between an older and younger sibling can result in the younger becoming a ‘functional first born’. Other factors such as gender can also affect this: a girl born with an older brother is the first-born girl, thus may demonstrate traditional first-born qualities. However, these assertions are often disputed by psychologists, and the effect of birth order on personality as a theory has been effectively debunked by several large-scale studies, such as the one conducted by Damian and Roberts (2015), which found that birth order had a near-zero effect on personality type. However, the concept continues to be present in popular culture and has been argued by other professionals to have some merit, although admittedly in a limited capacity (Sulloway, 1996). Others, like Lamb and Sutton-Smith (1982) have argued that while birth order may affect personality traits within the environment of the family home, later life experiences may eliminate any impact of birth order on personality, although they do concede that experience may also reinforce these traits. As birth order is a highly contested theory, future large-scale research could be in order to re-examine this idea.


Damian, R.I., and Roberts, B.W. (2015). "Settling the debate on birth order and personality". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112.46, pp. 14119–14120.
Lamb, M. E., and Sutton-Smith, B. (1982). Sibling Relationships: Their Nature and Significance of the Lifespan. London: Routledge.
Sulloway, F.J. (1996). Born to Rebel: Birth order, family dynamics and creative lives. New York: Pantheon Books.