Birth Order and Personality Term Paper

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Birth Order and Psychology

In previous years there have been quite a bit of research conducted on the subject of birth order and personality. However research on this matter has declined in at least the last 10 to 20 years. In all regards, it is the common perception that people who are first-born have the strongest disposition and have leadership tendencies. Research also tends to point out that children who are first-born usually have greater achievements in their professional careers. By the same token, these students are also more likely to have more mental disturbances than their younger siblings (Nyman). There are conflicting results as to the popularity factor concerning the first born. Some researchers content that the first-born are generally more popular, thus more out-going. While others contend that the first-born are less popular -- and perhaps more stand-offish (Nyman).

Children who are classified as the middle child are said to be more problematic than their older and younger siblings. They have been said to be more aggressive than other children. A study of University of Indiana students conducted in 1977 found that these students "scored high on aggression. (Nyman). However the another study contradicts the Indiana study by stating that these students have fewer problems. The before mentioned study, conducted by Kuar and Deer in 1982 "showed that middle children have the fewest personality problems." However it should be noted that the way children behave can be directly attributed to the way they are expected to behave. For example, if the eldest child is expected to be a leader, he or she most likely will fulfill that expectation. The same holds true for the middle child, or the last born.

Since the middle child is often expect to be poorly adjusted into society, this child is very likely to have problems adjusting. The last born sibling is often seen as the "baby" of the family and is treated as such.

It is interesting to note that children of African-American descent did not display any differences in character at all that could be attributed to their birth order. In fact, it has been question as to whether birth order places any role at all in the matter of African-American college students.

In one study concerning 139 undergraduate students in New York, students were asked to write down words to describe siblings or people they know in a particular birth order. The students' average age was 24 (Nyman). Hardly any of the words could be termed as being neutral for the study. Some of the words had positive inferences, while some of the words had negative inferences. However, the words could be defined as positive for some and negative by others (Nyman).

The oldest child was usually characterized as being aggressive, dominant, independent, intelligent, ambitious, responsible, caring and friendly (Nyman). The oldest child most often was at the center of attention in the household and had the most responsibility. Oftentimes, parents give the oldest child the task of watching over younger siblings or taking the bulk of the responsibility when it comes to finishing chores. Therefore, the older child is expected to be more responsible than his siblings and he or she must live up to that expectation. Because the child is given the opportunity to hold responsibility, sometimes at a young age, he or she is more accustomed to handling it.

However the eldest sibling is also seen as self-centered or even spoiled (generally among women).

The child born is the middle was described as someone who is thoughtful and responsible. In fact, the middle child often had the same attributes as the eldest child in the study. Male children were described as being open-minded while female children were described as being intelligent. Contrary to popular belief, the middle child was seen as being more well adjusted than other siblings. Of course, the study only indicates how the children are perceived to behave. In this study, nevertheless, the middle child was not seen as being spoiled or self-centered (Nyman). Females were thought to be highly independent whereas there was a split as to whether males where independent or dependent. The middle child is greatly perceived as a child who is an unsung hero, does not receive adequate attention, and is therefore usually overlooked in the family unit (Nyman).

The youngest were touted as being spoiled, dependent and irresponsible (Nyman). They were also defined as being insecure. Women who were the youngest were said to be passive. It should be noted that the he respondents emphasized that the youngest is spoiled. Males were most often seen as being the lazy one of the family. The study falls in line with common perception of the youngest child as being the child that has been nurtured more than other siblings. The youngest, is also seen as the family "favorite."

It has also been found that the last born sibling, is more likely to present challenging behaviors to others. The study, conducted by Richard Zweigenhaft and Jessica Von Ammon of the Department of Psychology for Guilford College, researched behavior from a group of college students who participated in civil disobedience at their workplace. The students were unhappy with the work conditions at a local K-Mart in North Carolina. They complained about lack of benefits, discrimination and harassment. There were 20 students from Guilford College who participated in the civil disobedience, which included rallies, pickets, and other forms non-violent protests. A year after some of the students were arrested, 17 of them were reached for participation in the study. The students were to answer questions about themselves, referring to their birth order. Next they were to asked to answer questions discussing a good friend who they knew well. A control group of 39 students who had not been arrested were also questioned. The study found that 43% of the entire group of students who were not arrested were the youngest sibling in their family. And 50% of the students who were arrested had been the youngest sibling. Also, all of the students who were arrested more than once during the protest were the youngest sibling in their family (Zweigenhaft, Von Ammon).

The study attempts to draw a connection, therefore between the willingness to challenge authority (and be arrested) with the person's birth order. The study also found that the willingness for the youngest to challenge authority or get arrested for one's beliefs was not determined by the number of children in the family (Zweigenhaft, Von Ammon).

Overall it appears that the perception of the child's birth order does influence the way others treat that sibling. The data also showed that the respondents view their own birth order in very much the same ways as that their birth order is viewed by others (Nyman).

Some analysts feel that birth order is only one way to determine a person's personality. (Beck). They contend that nature could play a very heavy role to both enhance birth order personality traits or to negate the traits. For example in a case where the youngest child is given little attention in the household and must take on the responsibility of caring for older siblings -- who are mentally challenged, this younger sibling may take on the attributes of an elder or first born child. The younger sibling may be looked upon as being responsible, trustworthy, or even assertive and demanding. Likewise, in the case in which an older child is not given any responsibility and is most often ignored, that child may take on the attributes of a younger sibling or even a middle child. In most cases, however, the siblings fit into a specific role because their environment allows them to play out a certain role.

It is necessary that further studies be conducted that link birth order attitudes…[continue]

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