How birth order influences character
Only children are in a very privileged position. They’ll have had their parents’ undivided attention, which means they probably developed excellent linguistic skills, and were quick to learn. Their status should have made them self-sufficient and independent, and providing they are exposed to other children from an early age, they should also have strong social skills. “I would have liked a sibling,” says 23-yearold Sarah,* “but I don’t think I missed out through not having one. My mum had loads of friends who had children at the same time, and my two cousins lived round the corner, so I have always had a great social life. I have one friend who I’ve known all my life, and that friendship means the world to me – maybe on a subconscious level I sought out and found my own surrogate sister.”
The rst-born sibling can often be more anxious and conscientious than their younger brothers or sisters, mainly because new parents can be over-protective. They will have a strong drive to achieve – born from striving to regain any parental attention they felt they lost when the second child came along. According to Linda, rst-born siblings “love to act as teachers and carers. Given the chance, they’ll take charge of their younger siblings, issuing instructions and making decisions about who does what, giving them a sense of control.”
Middle children are usually quite well-balanced and will be able to communicate with both younger and older children easily, meaning that they often act as the bridge between their siblings. As the social levellers of the family, they tend to be people pleasers. Nine-year-old Felix, who is sandwiched between two sisters, says he sometimes feels he is in a lose-lose situation – having neither the privileges of the oldest or the indulgences of the youngest, but his status as the only boy probably minimises any negative effects of being in the middle.
Those born last tend to have more freedom than their siblings, because their parents are more con dent and relaxed about their parenting skills. They can be more disorganised than their siblings, and may also give up on tasks they nd difficult, expecting others to step in and nish them for them. While they may enjoy being looked after, there will probably come a time when they rebel against their siblings and want to step out of their shadow.