Birth Order

Alfred Adler (1870–1937), an Austrian Physicist, and a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, was one of the first theorists to suggest that birth order influences personality. He argued that birth order can leave an indelible impression on an individual’s character. According to Adler, firstborns are “dethroned” when a second child comes along, and this may have a lasting influence on them. Younger and only children may be pampered and spoiled, which can also affect their later personalities.


Here are the traits frequently associated with the order of birth personality characteristics as shown on the website of

Firstborns, as the leader of the pack, often tend to be:

  • Reliable
  • Conscientious
  • Structured
  • Cautious
  • Controlling
  • Achievers

Middle children tend to possess the following characteristics:

  • People-pleasers
  • Somewhat rebellious
  • Thrives on friendships
  • Has large social circle
  • Peacemaker

Youngest children tend to be the most free-spirited due to their parents’ increasingly laissez-faire attitude towards parenting the second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) time around. The baby of the family tends to be:

  • Fun-loving
  • Uncomplicated
  • Manipulative
  • Outgoing
  • Attention-seeker
  • Self-centered

Being the only child is a unique position in a family. Without any siblings to compete with, the only child monopolizes his parents’ attention and resources, not just for a short period of time like a firstborn, but forever. Thus, only children tend to be:

  • Mature for their age
  • Perfectionists
  • Conscientious
  • Diligent
  • Leaders

Gap Children: According to Leman, if you have a gap of at least five years in between births, another family begins in the birth order structure. A 2-year-old boy with a newborn brother and an 8-year-old older sister isn’t going adopt middle-child traits, but rather those of a firstborn.


The Birth Order Theory has become a controversial issue over the years. Many psychologists believe parenting and family size are far greater determining factors than the order in which a person was born. I’m not sure which side is right, but it was fun to see how my family fit into the descriptions.

My three children fall roughly into the personality traits listed. My grandson fits absolutely into the category of only child. He’s definitely mature, a perfectionist, and conscientious.

On the other hand, I’m the first born in my family with one sister two years younger, and I don’t see either of us fitting into the lists.

What do you think? Do your behaviors match your birth order, or are you traveling along your own path?