New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
George and Charlotte will soon be feeling the squeeze
Prince George and Princess Charlotte are bound to be beside themselves with excitement at the birth of their little brother.
But what they won’t realise is that the cute little bundle of joy that Mummy and Daddy brought home from the hospital last week is going to change their lives, as a sibling can completely alter the dynamics of a family.
Charlotte, in particular – who is already being described as the “sandwich sister” – is most likely to notice big changes as she goes from being the youngest to the middle child.
Some researchers believe birth order can be as important as gender – and almost as much as genetics – when it comes to determining personality. Psychologists have long theorised that your position in the family can also play a part in forming intelligence and emotional stability.
Back in the late 1800s, British psychologist and sociologist Francis Galton noticed that a lot of his scientist colleagues were first-born sons. He theorised that they had greater intellectual success because as heirs, first-born sons were greatly valued by their families and were given more attention.
Then, in the late 1920s, Austrian doctor and psychologist Alfred Adler, who worked alongside Sigmund Freud, further developed theories about how birth order affects people. He was adamant that birth order answered the often-asked question, “Why do children who grow up in the same family with the same parents, have very different personalities?” He argued that they developed varying traits because they were treated differently depending on their place in the family line-up.
According to his theories, first-borns can end up being more suited to leadership because they’re the oldest, but also neurotic and self-centred because they felt “de-throned” by a younger sibling’s arrival.
Alfred believed that in a three-child family, the oldest child would be most likely to suffer from substance addiction, which he reckoned was compensation for feelings of excessive responsibility and the loss of the pampered position as an only child. He said that this child was the most likely to end up in jail or an asylum.
Meanwhile, the youngest child would be outgoing and more agreeable, but also spoiled and immature, thanks to getting more attention and being “babied” by their parents and older siblings. Being overindulged would also make them more likely to have poor empathy for others, he said.
Middle children, on the other hand, who didn’t experience either dethronement or overindulgence, were more likely to be independent and develop into successful and healthy individuals. However, feeling squeezed out by their attention-seeking older and young siblings could lead to them becoming the family rebel.
Dr Adler never produced any scientific evidence to back up his ideas, but over the years many other researchers have used his theories as a basis for looking into the effect of birth order on everything from intelligence through to imagination and creativity.
Many have concluded that, generally speaking, first-born children such as George tend to turn out to be reliable, conscientious, cautious, controlling and high-achieving. They can have good selfconfidence, thanks to having had the undivided attention of their parents, but can also feel the weight of their expectations and become perfectionists.
Second-born children benefit from having parents who are more relaxed this time around, but they can feel inadequate compared to their older, more advanced sibling. A middle child of three, such as Charlotte, is in the unique position of being both a younger and an older sibling, so they have an older sibling to learn from and a younger one to nurture. But they can end up jealous of the attention their older and younger brothers and sisters get, and may feel left out.
Middle children can end up being competitive as a way of asserting their presence and have to establish their own unique personality. They tend to be people pleasers, peacemakers and sociable.
Then there’s the last born – which the new royal will be if Kate and William decide not to have any more children. They are often fun-loving, uncomplicated and, possibly, attention-seekers. Their parents are confident in their childrearing abilities and often more lenient, and less likely to fuss over them. As a result, they tend to have more freedom and be more independent.
THE NEW WEE PRINCE SHUFFLES CHARLOTTE FROM YOUNGEST TO MIDDLE CHILD, WHICH COULD HAVE LASTING EFFECTS
They often feel they have to make a lot of noise to get attention, which leads to them being more outgoing adults.
But they may not be as willing to take on responsibility because it’s not something they had to do as a child.
Some of these generalisations have been brought into question by recent research carried out in Germany and the US, with these researchers concluding that the stereotypes have more to do with people comparing themselves to their siblings, rather than how they actually are.
But one thing’s for sure – there will be plenty of people waiting to see if George, Charlotte and their baby brother turn out to display traits said to be typical of their place in the family.