Birth Order Facts
Birth Order Facts

62 Interesting Facts about Birth Order

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 22, 2017
  • The first theorist to suggest that birth order can affect human psychology was Alfred Adler (1870-1937). In short, he argued that firstborns are “dethroned” by a second child, which permanently affects the firstborn’s personality. Additionally, younger and older children may be spoiled and pampered, which also permanently affects their later personalities.[7]
  • When discussing birth order, it is important to note that there are other various, influential factors related to the development of personality, including family size, sex of each child, sibling deaths, relationship between parents, how critical parents are, and family blending due to divorce or death.[7]
  • Researchers note that men may be more likely to be homosexual if they share their birth mother with older brothers. Each older brother increases a man’s odds of being homosexual by approximately 33%.[3]
  • Parents may impose their own stereotypes about birth order on their children which, in turn, creates self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, a firstborn child may feel like a leader because his parents handed him this role early in life. Or a firstborn will believe he is smarter and approach a testing situation with more self-confidence, thus, boosting his score.[7]
  • Some researchers say that the apparent disadvantages middle children endure can help them be more empathetic, independent, and articulate.[1]
  • Fun Last Born Fact
    Last borns tend to be the most rebellious
  • Because last-borns view their older sibling as bigger, faster, and smarter, they may attempt to differentiate themselves by being more rebellious.[6]
  • Famous firstborns include Zac Efron, Beyoncé Knowles, Dakota Fanning, Harrison Ford, Matthew Parry, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Reese Witherspoon, and Ben Affleck.[2]
  • Firstborns are more likely to make at least $100,000 more annually than their siblings.[2]
  • When there is a five- to six-year gap between children, the next child starts a “new” family and “new” birth order.[6]
  • Sometimes extenuating circumstances tweak the natural birth order sequences so that a later-born child may act like a firstborn, or a firstborn can seem to have characteristics that are inconsistent with the way firstborns are “supposed” to act.[7]
  • One researcher advises parents not to adopt a child who is older than any biological children they already have. The younger biological child may feel “dethroned” by the adopted child.[6]
  • Second-born children are known for going the opposite direction from the firstborn in the family.[5]
  • Because firstborns are often given more responsibility at home (e.g., babysitting younger siblings, helping with chores), they can be quick to take charge.[5]
  • Random Birth Order Facts
    Firstborns tend to score higher on IQ tests
  • Firstborns tend to score higher on IQ tests and typically get more education than their brothers and sisters.[2]
  • Famous youngest siblings include Prince Harry, Blake Lively, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Jon Stewart, Billy Crystal, Danny DeVito, Drew Carey, Jim Carey, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, John Candy, and Charlie Chaplin.[2]
  • Blended families do not automatically create new birth orders, especially if the children are older. Specifically, after the age of 5 or 6, personalities are already mainly formed, which means the firstborn is always a firstborn, a middle child is always a middle child, and so on.[5]
  • A 2007 study showed a correlation between IQ and birth order: the more older siblings one has, the lower one’s IQ.[5]
  • Firstborn personalities can be created by being the oldest of your sex, having a 5-year (or more) gap between you and the child above you of the same sex, or achieving a role reversal and taking over the firstborn privileges and responsibilities.[7]
  • Generally, firstborns or only children are conscientious, well-organized, serious, goal-oriented, achieving, people pleasers, and believers in authority. Other traits include perfectionistic, reliable, and self-reliant.[1]
  • According to a survey the U.S. Census Bureau released in 2009, the average number of children in a household under the age of 18 is one.[6]
  • Qualities of a middle child include mediator, compromising, diplomatic, avoids conflict, independent, loyal to peers, many friends, a maverick, and unspoiled.[4]
  • Approximately, 1,300 new blended families form every day in the U.S. Approximately 40% of all marriages represent a remarriage of one or both parties. If remarriages continue at this rate, 35% of all children born will live in a stepfamily by the time they reach 18. Approximately 1 in 6 children under the age of 18 is a stepchild.[5]
  • Fun Birth Order Fact
    One in 6 children under the age of 18 is a stepchild

  • Research notes that middle children are the most secretive of all birth orders.[4]
  • Qualities of a last born include manipulative, charming, blames others, attention seeker, tenacious, people person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate, and loves surprises.[4]
  • One marriage counselor noted that the most competitive, most volatile, and most discouraging marriage combinations are where both spouses are firstborns or, worse, only children.[4]
  • One marriage counselor noted that the first principal (not a rule) for riskier marriage is to marry someone in your own birth order. In other words, a firstborn marrying a first born or a middle child marrying a middle child.[4]
  • A middle child who marries another middle child desires peace at any price, which can actually lead to avoidance. Their marriage may have a quiet surface with all kinds of storms brewing underneath. They are more likely to not communicate well because they feel it isn’t worth the hassle to confront each other.[4]
  • Random Birth Order Fact
    Middle born children visit therapists less
  • Statistics show that firstborns and last-borns visit therapists and counselors more often than middle children.[6]
  • A couple consisting of two last-borns is more likely to get into debt.[4]
  • Last-borns or only children who marry other last-borns make the best match. The next most successful marriage pairing are middle children and last-borns.[4]
  • If there is one generalization someone could make about middle children is that they feel squeezed or dominated—or what has been known as the Middle Child Syndrome.[6]
  • Middle children are less likely to be spoiled and, therefore, they tend to be less frustrated and demanding of life.[6]
  • Because only-children spend so much time alone, they tend to be self-entertainers and often tend to be the most creative of all birth orders. One researcher calls them “Super First Borns.” Like firstborns, they are confident, pay attention to detail, and tend to do well in school.[1]
  • The way parents treat their children is as important as the children’s birth order, spacing, sex, and physical or mental characteristics. The key question is this: do parents provide a loving, accepting, and warm environment or was it critical, cold, and distant?[7]
  • Interesting First Born Fact
    Firstborns usually receive the most attention
  • Firstborns are often used to being the center of attention. In fact, an oldest child will have approximately 3,000 more hours of quality time with his or her parents between ages 4 and 13 than the next sibling will get.[4]
  • Because firstborns follow their parents’ lead and they don’t have older siblings to make fun of them, they like taking charge and have more confidence. Additionally, parents are more likely to praise every firstborn’s first milestone, which also can lead to more confidence.[1]
  • Because firstborns tend to be perfectionists, they may be afraid of making mistakes and resist taking action. They may also have trouble admitting when they’re wrong.[1]
  • Famous middle children include Donald Trump, Elijah Wood, Bill Gates, Princess Diana, and Martin Luther King, Jr.[6]
  • Studies show that middle-borns are the most monogamous of all birth orders.[6]
  • One college survey showed that only-children are perceived as more self-centered, attention seeking, unhappy, and unlikable than those who grew up with siblings.[6]
  • Twenty-eight out of 44 U.S. presidents, or 64%, have been firstborns or functional (play the role of) firstborns.[6]
  • Famous older children include Gerald Ford, FDR, Ted Koppel, David Copperfield, Joe Montana, Leonardo da Vinci, the Duchess of Windsor, Charles Lindbergh, Indira Gandhi, and Isaac Newton.[6]
  • Researchers distinguish between “actual birth order” or ABO (the numerical rank order into which someone is born) and “psychological birth order,” or PBO (self-perceived position in the family). Actual and psychological birth order can vary for various reasons, including illness of one child, family size, and degree of separation between siblings.[7]
  • Interesting Birth Order Facts
    Actual birth order may differ from psychological birth order

  • Firstborns tend to walk and talk earlier than later-borns.[1]
  • “Firstborn” may mean the first born in a family, the first child of that gender born in the family, or a child whose next-closest same-sex sibling is 5 or more years older than him or her.[6]
  • Eight of the 11 presidential candidates in 2008 were firstborn sons or firstborn daughters in their families.[6]
  • Research suggests that firstborns are more highly motivated to achieve than later- borns.[5]
  • Of the first 23 American astronauts sent into outer space, 21 were firstborns and the other two were only-children.[6]
  • All seven astronauts in the original Mercury program were firstborns.[6]
  • When a child is born with special needs, younger siblings may take on the firstborn role.[6]
  • Generally speaking, children are affected and influenced the most by whoever is directly above them in the family.[6]
  • Interesting Children Facts
    Siblings are affected and influenced the most by whoever is directly above them in the family

  • Famous only-children include Natalie Portman, Maria Sharapova, Tiger Woods, Alicia Keys, Shane West, and Jada Pinkett Smith.[6]
  • Statistics show that firstborns often fill positions of high authority or achievement. For example, Who’s Who in America and American Men and Women in Science both contain a high percentage of firstborns.[6]
  • The physical makeup of children can skew birth order generalizations. For example, two closely spaced boys with the youngest being significantly bigger, or a firstborn girl who is extremely pretty and a second-born girl who is extremely plain.[4]
  • Because middle-borns are sandwiched between younger and older siblings who wanted things done their way, middle children are often the ones to propose to compromise, often at their own expense.[6]
  • The last-born child typically has the least limits and, therefore, is more likely to take the riskiest options.[4]
  • Researchers are unsure why, but middle-borns tend to leave home relatively earlier than their siblings.[6]
  • A danger for last-borns is that they may be more likely to be disappointed in life. Last-borns are more likely to grow up with expectations that other people, specifically parental figures, would automatically know and prove what you wanted. However, the longer people are taken care of, the higher the chance they will feel let down by others later in life.[4]
  • Interesting Twins Facts
    Twins have their own unique birth order
  • Twins usually don’t follow typical birth order roles in Western nations. However, when twins are born vaginally, the firstborn is usually bigger and the other is usually at greater risk for health problems. Consequently, parents may consciously treat the first twin more like a firstborn.[6]
  • Because last-borns tend to focus so much of their attention on what others can do for them, they are less likely to set goals or be organized, though they tend to be more creative and innovative.[4]
  • Newscasters and TV talk show hosts tend to be firstborns or only-children. Prominent examples include Peter Jennings, Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo Rivera, and Rush Limbaugh.[4]
  • Parents subconsciously identify with the child who holds the spot in the family they occupied themselves. A lastborn dad may think his youngest child’s antics are cute while a firstborn mom sees them as irresponsible.[4]
  • The Four Major Birth Positions[1][4][5]
    PositionCommon Characteristics
    First BornPerfectionistic, reliable, list maker, well organized, critical, serious, scholarly, thirsty for approval, conservative and law abiding, self-critical, bad at delegating, more likely to seek help
    Second BornMediator, fewest pictures in the family photo album, avoids conflict, independent, extremely loyal to the peer group, many friends, relaxed, diplomatic, easily persuaded, realistic about own talents and abilities, champion of the underdog
    Last BornManipulative, charming, blames others, shows off, people person, good sales person, precocious, dependent, disorganized, creative and innovative, lower self-esteem, easily disappointed
    Only ChildAcademically successful, self-confident, happy alone, logical and organized, not street smart, perfectionist, afraid of disorder.
References

1Blair, Linda. “First-Born? Piggy in the Middle or Always the Baby? How Your Place in the Family Rules Your Life.” DailyMail UK. January 28, 2011. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

2DiProperzio, Linda. “Understanding the Power of Birth Order.” Today. Updated October 4, 2010. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

3Hitti, Miranda. “Birth Order May Affect Homosexuality.” WebMD. June 26, 2006. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

4Lorenzi, Natalie. “How Birth Order Shapes Personality.” Parents. 2014. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

5Neal, Rome. “Personality Traits Linked to Birth Order.” CBS News. June 10, 2002. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

6Salmon, Catherine and Katrin Schumann. The Secret Power of Middle Children. New York, NY: Plume, 2011.

7Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “That Elusive Birth Order Effect and What It Means for You.” Psychology Today. May 18, 2013. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

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