Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birth Order

Lunchtime--1914--Zinaida Serebriakova It was a great Thanksgiving. Our family enjoyed a trip to South Carolina to visit my parents.

My sister stayed in the Charlotte area to have dinner with her husband’s family there. I’ll be catching up with her in a couple of days.

My sister and I, although we get along really well together, are absolutely nothing alike.

I’m very introverted; she’s very extroverted. She chose a job in the financial sector where she deals with numbers daily. I chose to work with words, instead. She claims she has no creativity at all; I got more than my fair share. She is extremely coordinated and was a serious ballet and modern dancer in college. I have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time and staircases remain a major challenge for me.

Most of those things are just genetic flukes. But there are definitely some behavioral differences that I believe result from the fact that I’m first-born and she’s second.

Birth order has always interested me. I read a book on it a few years ago and was surprised at some of the book’s claims. It stated that we frequently befriend people who share our birth order—we may not know their birth order, but we’re attracted to our common traits.

But, stated the book, we usually marry partners who don’t share our birth order. Opposites can attract, when it comes to romance.

I thought it was a load of hooey---but it just so happens that all my closest friends are first borns. My husband is a second-born.

I’m always interested in gaining a little insight into my characters or making them stronger. Birth order isn’t something I mention in my books, but the traits can be useful when inventing characters and studying personality traits.

(Oh, am I stirring up trouble! Now y’all….there are exceptions. And this isn’t necessarily scientific. But here goes. This is from the British paper, The Guardian.):


Oldest children

Typically responsible, confident and conscientious, they are more likely to mirror their parents' beliefs and attitudes, and often choose to spend more time with adults. Oldest children are often natural leaders, and their role at work may reflect this.

Because they are more likely to have authority over younger siblings, or take on the role of surrogate parent, they have a tendency to be bossy and want things to be done their way. Oldest children can be perfectionists and worriers, and may put pressure on themselves to succeed.

Middle children

Likely to be adaptable, diplomatic and good at bringing people together, middle children are often popular and patient. However, because their role in the family changes from youngest to middle, it is thought that they often struggle to establish a clear role for themselves, and many go through a period of rebellion.

Middle children can be competitive: they do not have the time on their own with their parents that oldest children enjoy, and their role as the baby of the family is supplanted, so they have to find other ways of getting their parents' attention.

Youngest children

Charming, impulsive and good at getting their own way, the youngest child's role as baby of the family means that he or she is likely to be indulged. This may mean fewer responsibilities and more opportunities for fun, but youngest children often find that they aren't taken as seriously or given the independence they crave. Youngest children often rebel as a way of distinguishing themselves from older brothers and sisters. They are more likely to take risks, and often choose a career that is different from other members of their family.

Only children

Only children enjoy the same parental attention as first-borns and are often confident, conscientious and socially mature, due to the amount of time they spend in a largely adult world. They may have a tendency to assume that others know how they are feeling, or think the same way as they do, without question. They may be dependent on their parents for longer than other children, spending more time at home and delaying decisions about their future.


These results, obviously, change in very large families, or if there is a large gap between children.

I will say that a lot of the above is related to family dynamics and how the parents treat each individual child.

But it’s interesting. And, for me, it’s fun to find perspectives on what motivates and drives my characters.

On a separate note, please pop over and see my fun interview at the Book Resort today. Thanks!