A child’s place in the family birth order may play a role in the type of occupations that will interest him or
Her as an adult, new research suggests. ln two related studies, researchers found that only children – and to a certain extent first-born children – were more interested in intellectual, cognitive pursuits than were laterborn children. In contrast, later-born children were more interested in both artistic and outdoor-related careers.
These results fit into theories that say our place in family birth order will influence our personality, said Frederick T. L. Leong, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University. ‘Parents typically place different demands and have different expectations of children depending on their birth
Order,’ Leong said.
‘For example, parents may be extremely protective of only children and worry about their physical safety. That may be why only children are more likely to show interest in academic pursuits rather than physical or outdoor activities. Only children will tend to get more time and attention from their Parents than children with siblings. This will often make them feel special but the downside is that they may suffer occasional pangs of jealousy and loneliness when friends discusst heir brothers and sisters and familv life.’
The first-born is an only child until the second child comes along – transforming them from being the centre of attention, to then sharing the care of parents. Parents will also expect them to be responsible and ‘set an example’. The change from being the focus of a family may be quite a shock and so shape the first-born’s subsequent outlook on life. Therefore first-borns may try to get backt heir parents’ attention and approval by achieving success and recognition in their careers. lt has been noted that first-borns are significantly more often found as world politicall eadersth
an any other birth order position.
‘As they have more children, parents tend to become more open and relaxed and that may allow younger children to be more risk-taking,’ Leong said. ‘lf the first-born or only child wants to be a poet, that may concern parents. But by the fourth child, parents may not mind as much.’
Being the youngest in the family can sometimes be a stifling and frustrating experience, especially if they’re looking to be taken seriously and treated like an adult. The last-born is more likely than the other birth order positionst to take up dangerouss sports. This may be a sign of the last-born’s rebellious streak – a result of being fed up with always being bossed about by everyone else in the family.
Middle children, however, have different issues. ‘Middle child syndrome’ can mean feeling sandwiched between two other ‘more important’ people – an older sibling who gets all the rights and is treated like an adult and a younger sibling who gets all the privileges and is treated like a spoilt child. Middle-borns have to learn to get on with older and younger children, and this may contribute to them becoming good negotiators – of all the birth order positions they are most skilful at dealing with authority figures and those holding inferior positions.
Leong said the biggest differences in the study were between only children and later-born children.’ Firstborn children are difficult to classify because they start out as only children but later give up that position. lt may be that the length of time a firstborn child is an only child makes a difference in his or her personality.’