Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Birth Order Can Influence Childhood Development

Have you ever wondered if the order you were born in impacted your development?  Do you think the birth order of your children impacts them?  What do you think would have happened if you were the oldest or youngest in your family instead of your current position?

It turns out, in a general setting, that birth order does impact children.  Alfred Adler was one of the first to recognize this, and the following is what he theorized.

  • The oldest child.  They start their life as an only child.  In a sense they receive 200% of the parent’s attention, until the second child comes and takes their attention. They tend to have more responsibility and are expected to set an example. They will have the largest baby album.
  • The second child. They spend their entire life trying to dethrone the oldest sibling.  The older sibling to them is the pacemaker, and it is a competition to keep up or even exceed. However, the exact opposite may be true, that the pressure of keeping in pace with older sibling may squeeze them into rebellion to get noticed. Their baby album is about half the size of the older siblings.
  • The middle child. They are squeezed in the world, having to compete against older and younger siblings for attention.  Sometimes this means they fade into the background.  They tend to be the victim of the most injustice because the oldest is perfect, and the youngest is an angel.
  • The youngest child. Has even bigger boots to fill in keeping up with older siblings. In a way, they have many parents as older siblings try to raise them.  They only have a baby-book, if they are in pictures with older siblings.  However, they too can be spoiled more than other siblings.  They may also tend to be favoured by parents in sibling conflicts.
  • The only child. Similar to the oldest child that they have full attention from both parents, however, this is for a life-time. They too tend to have difficulty sharing with other kids, since they are not conditioned to share or cooperate with other children. They will prefer to have adult attention and to be at the centre of attention.

Of course these are generalizations and do not apply globally to everyone, but there are common characteristics shared by oldest, middle, youngest and only children across families.

The most disagreed part of Adler’s theory is the only child.  This may be due to societal sensitivities since the average Canadian family has 1.7 children.  Nonetheless, research shown to me by Caroline Piotrowski has shown that not all only-children are self-centred, greedy children who look out for themselves, they can take on any of the roles.

So take this information with a grain of salt.  This may resonate with you, it may represent one of your children to a ‘T’, or it may be the exact opposite of you or your children.

Written by:

Josh Lockhart Locking Hearts Together

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