Birth Order and Personality Alfred Term Paper

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" e) Develops abilities the first child doesn't exhibit. f) if the first child is successful, they may feel uncertain of themself and their abilities. g) May be rebellious. h) Often doesn't like their position. i) Feels "squeezed," if a third child is born. j) May push down other siblings (Birth, 5).

Laterborns tend to use low-power strategies, such as whining, pleading, humor, social intelligence, offers of reciprocal altruism, and, whenever expedient, appealing to parents for help. Two or more laterborns may also join forces against the firstborn, or laterborns may team up with their elder siblings in an effort to dominate their juniors (Sulloway, 2001, p. 47)

Middle Children

Middle children may not employ the oldest's rank and strategies for success. Neither can they use the youngest's ploys to gain approval and power. To make their way in the world they must be more diplomatic and skilled at negotiation, peacemaking and compromise. They tend to have good friends and because of differentiation between adjacent siblings, tend to be similar to the siblings who are not next to them in birth order. The middle child of three is usually different from the middle child of a large family. The middle children of large families are often less competitive as parents don't have as much time to give each child and so the children learn to cooperate to get what they want (Birth p. 5).

The Middle Child is the one most pitied by researchers who find the middle child to be beset on all sides with unassailable barriers. He or she cannot compete with those older, nor can they compete with a youngest, who has the undivided attention of the parents. Most research finds that he Middle Child: a) Has neither rights of oldest nor privileges of youngest. b) Feels life is unfair. c) Feels unloved, left out, and "squeezed." d) Feels as if he or she doesn't have a place in the family. e) Becomes discouraged and a "problem child," or elevates him or herself by pushing down other siblings. f) Is adaptable. g) Learns to deal with both older and younger siblings.

Sulloway dealt quite often with the middle child in his research. He found that:

Middle children often respond to their Darwinian handicap by becoming peer oriented and independent of the family. Compared with firstborns and lastborns, middle children are less closely attached to the family, less likely to turn to their parents for help in an emergency, and less likely to report having been loved during childhood. Middle children are also likely to live farther away from their parents. In addition, they are less likely than their siblings to visit close kin (Sulloway, 2001, p. 48).

Youngest Child

The youngest child is the subject of some research, but is often overlooked because so much attention is paid to middle children. However, youngest children tend to have clearly definable personalities. They are both spoiled and dependent, yet often feel inferior and overwhelmed by all the older people in their lives. Sulloway had an interesting resulting comment on the evolutionary aspect of tending to all children of a family and the youngest role:

Whenever resources are scarce and children are still largely dependent on parental care, parents are expected to invest preferentially in eldest surviving children because they are the first to reproduce. Parents are also expected to invest preferentially in youngest children because these offspring are the most needy and vulnerable to disease and, after parents have ceased reproducing, are the last children they will ever have (Sulloway, 2001, p. 48).

Mainstream research finds that the youngest child: a) Behaves like only child. b) Feels every one is bigger and more capable than they. c) Expects others to do things, make decisions, and take responsibility. d) Feels smallest and weakest. e) May not be taken seriously. f) Becomes the boss of the family in getting service and their own way. g) Develops feelings of inferiority or becomes a "speeder" and overtakes older siblings. h) Remains "The Baby" forever, and places others in service. i) if he or she is the youngest of three, often allies with the oldest child against the middle child.

Only Children

Because only children are raised by two adults without the buffer or competition from siblings, youngest children tend to: a) Be pampered and spoiled. b) Feel incompetent because adults are more capable. c) Be the center of attention; often enjoying the position. d) May feel special. e) Be self-centered. f) Rely on service from others rather than their own efforts. g) Feel unfairly treated when doesn't get own way. h) May refuse to cooperate. i) Play "divide and conquer" to get their own way.

Only children are similar to first-born children. They tend to seek parental approval and are motivated to conform to parental expectations. They tend to be achievement oriented and are good students. Since they do not have other siblings, they are more inclined to do any work themselves, rather than delegate. Gaps of more than six years between siblings creates a child with only-child attributes. Only children usually want to be adults, and so don't relate to peers very well. When they become adults, they often believe they've finally "made it" and can now relate better to adults as peers. During their formative years, only children live primarily in the world of adults. They must learn how to operate in the big people's world as well as how to entertain themselves. Thus they often become very creative in their endeavors (Birth, p. 5).

Genetic Factors

While birth order often affects children simply because there are behavioral activities directed toward the child and the child responds, it has also been found that birth order actually affects the chromosome order as a mother has more and more children in some families. The mother may actually become immune to the hormones in her male children and if she has several males, may eventually create males that have genetic differences from their older brothers.

At least one prenatal factor that is under genetic control is linked with birth order. Among males (but not among females), laterborns are more likely to become homosexuals. Unlike other behavioral attributes associated with birth order, tendencies toward homosexuality are influenced by the number of older brothers, not by relative birth rank from eldest to youngest child.... These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that some mothers develop antibodies either to the hormones responsible for masculinizing the fetus or to one of the male-specific minor histocompatibility antigens. Such immunological responses, Blanchard and his colleagues have argued, prevent male fetuses from being fully transformed from female to male (Blanchard, p. 27).

Special Circumstances and Variables

Variables may affect a child's birth order and personality characteristics, so birth order is not a valid way to "peg" a personality. These Variables, which will be examined during the research in question, may entail tradition of one's race, religion and gender (such as when a family favors a boy, even though the oldest is a girl), culture (when males are honored to the detriment of females, or vice versa), socioeconomic factors (when children are separated or are forced to take roles not typical of their birth order roles), family size (when a family becomes so large that most of the children are middle children and are not differentiated by birth order, but by personality and abilities), attributes of parents (when a parent favors one child, or a parent is absent and a child must take its place), or a handicapped child (when all members of the family must support a child who is not able to function normally). Divorce, additional marriages and half-or step-siblings may also change family size and birth order, if older and younger siblings are mixed into a group or are taken away from a group of siblings. Other birth order factors that should be considered Variables are: the spacing in years between siblings; the total number of children; and the changing circumstances of the parents over time. All of these Variables will be discovered during questioning of the subjects.

Research Strategy

This research will utilize a series of questions in a questionnaire and poll 50 subjects pulled from college-aged people. The questionnaires will ask the birth order of the subject, then the goals and aspirations of the subject. Questions will be overt and based on the lettered descriptions of the first-, second-, middle-, youngest-born and only children, above. Finally, the subjects will be questioned on what, if any, successes or failures they have experienced in their lifetime. The questions will be couched so as to determine if there are any of the Variables mentioned immediately above that are not dependant on birth order. In this way, the weight of Variables will be compared with that of birth order in determining life activities.

This form of research has been chosen because it is inexpensive and the answers easily examined in order to…[continue]

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