Nature vs. Nurture
Nature vs. Nurture

How Does Birth Order Shape Your Personality?

Nature vs nurture: does birth order shape the personality of who you are and who you become?

How Does Birth Order Shape Your Personality?

For many, the argument of nature vs nurture comes up a lot, in that people question whether or not the nature of your birth or what follows really will shape your personality and life. However, many more people should ask about the birth order of you and your siblings. Studies show that has a drastic impact on the development of your personality.

Being the oldest child, the youngest child, the middle child, or only child may not seem like the most important thing when determining why a person is the way they are, and, to be fair, it isn't. But it is a huge factor.

How does birth order shape your personality? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Being the Eldest Child

Being the eldest child is a pretty personality-shaping affair. As your parents have no prior experience raising children, they tend to act more extremely with you. When you say your first words or learn to walk, they are more pleased with you. If you mess up, well, they will get angry at you.

So this leads to some pretty major alterations. With all the praise comes a desire to overachieve, to warrant more praise. With all the criticism comes a fear of failure. Birth order drastically shapes your personality if you're the eldest child.

Sociologists also note how being an elder child also puts a ton of responsibility on your shoulders before your siblings. This usually results in either a sense of authority (that your parents will probably invalidate) or anxieties about being responsible (that will get worse over time).

But some upsides. Some middle children are more responsible as a result of them being criticized so much, and, as part of this self-motivation, take on far harder tasks that their younger siblings might not really be eager to partake.

Being the Middle Child

The middle child is a phrase that is a little vague in its definition. After all, if you are one of four kids, than surely the middle two are both the middle child, despite there also being a younger middle and older middle child, right?

Perhaps it is this vague definition of identity that results in middle children sometimes rebelling against their older siblings. In order to stand out, very often they will act in defiance to what their older sibling wants or does. If your first born son is self-contained and shy, the middle child may be loud and excitable.

The point is that it is hard to label what it's like being a middle child or how does birth order affect your personality if you were born smack-dab in-between your older and younger siblings. Other than, of course, your personality being shaped by your other siblings around you.

To an extent.

Being the Youngest Child

Birth order, though, has the most drastic impact on the youngest child, in particular if there are two children above him or her in the line of birth.

As is obvious, while the first born is the most strictly attended, the youngest child is the least criticized and praised. This tends to lead to them being more free-hearted and energetic. They are more willing to draw attention through laughter and jokes in order to stand out from both their elder siblings and the crowd.

Another factor goes into how much older their siblings are. If the siblings are significantly older, there's a good chance that the elder siblings might baby the youngest. This may result in them knowing how to manipulate you in order to get what they want.

Being the Only Child

When asking "How does birth order shape your personality?" there is the implication that there is a birth order. Not so with only children. The only child is just that: the sole child born. There remains no need to compete with other children, no other siblings that help shape their personality.

Therefore, only children have a lot in common with first borns. Lots of criticism. Lots of praise. However, while they may be ambitious and creative and struggle for greatness like an oldest child, there is also a possibility they will develop a sense of self-entitlement.

Of course, it is important to note that all of these descriptions are vague. After all, birth order is a vague concept. Being born first will not automatically make you a leader, nor will being the youngest turn you into the class clown. These are all trends observed by child psychologists over time, and in no way determines your entire personality before you're born.

Birth order does not create your personality. Birth order merely shapes it.

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Emily McCay


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