Birth Order

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WORDS  377

Birth Order

Does birth order have an
effect on personality? Does being first born make people more responsible?
If someone is the middle born child, are they going to be more rebellious?
If people are last born are they more likely to be on television? Are first
born children inconsiderate and selfish or reliable and highly motivated?
These, and many other questions are being thoroughly studied by psychologists
(Harrigan, 1992). In 1923, the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adler, wrote
that a person's position in the family leaves an undeniable "stamp" on his
or her "style of life" (Marzollo, 1990). Research has shown that birth order
does indeed affect a child; however, it does not automatically shape personality.
If it did, life would be much more predictable and a great deal less interesting
(Marzollo, 1990). Yogi Bera, a famous baseball player, said "Every now and
then a reporter who thinks he is Freud asks me if being the youngest is why
I made it (playing professional baseball). I almost alw
ays say yes, but
I don't think it had anything to do with it" (Harrigan, 1992).
Birth order
doesn't explain everything about human behavior. Personality is affected by
many different factors, such as heredity, family size, the spacing and sex
of siblings, education, and upbringing. However, there is an awful lot of
research and plain old "law of averages" supporting the affect of birth order
on personality (Leman, 1985). There are four basic classifications of birth
order: the oldest, the only, the middle, and the youngest. Each has its own
set of advantages, as well as its own set of disadvantages. While the birth
order factor isn't always exact, it does give many clues about why people are
the way they are (Leman, 1985).
If there is one word that describes first
born children it would be "perfectionist" (Harrigan, 1992). First born children
tend to be high achievers in whatever they do. Some traits customarily used
to label first born children include reliable, conscientious, list maker, well
organized, critical, serious, scholarly (Leman, 1985), self-assured, good leadership
ability, eager to please, and nurturing (Brazelton, 1994). Also, first born
children seem to have a heightened sense of right and wrong. It is common
in most books about birth order that first born children get more press than
only, middle, and youngest children. This can be explained by the fact that
the first born c...

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