What Role Does Birth Order Play In Shaping Personality?

Have you ever noticed how children from the same family can be so different?  Do you often look at your children thinking how am I raising these kids with such opposite personalities?

In his book, The Birth Order, Dr. Kevin Leman explains that many of these differences can be attributed to the order in which your children were born.  We share some of his theories below.

  • First born.  A child who is born first tends to be a perfectionist. This child has a lot of adult attention since they are the first baby in a family. Parents have high expectations and ask their children to perform well in school. First-born children tend not to break rules and like to follow directions to please people, namely their parents.
  • Middle child. The second child, or those born in the middle of other siblings have characteristics of being a peacemaker. They tend to be more quiet or easy-going.  This child typically likes their older and younger siblings and might serve as the bridge between the two.  At times, this child will try very hard not to be their older sibling.
  • The youngest.  Older children will say that this child gets away with everything.  Some believe that parents are more tired and just don’t have as many rules or are less concerned about enforcing the rules. This child tends to like attention and have things his or her way.


Leman’s book goes on to describe how birth order affects children throughout their lives. Sometimes it shapes the careers that is chosen and/or whom we marry.  Leman’s theory argues that first born children will tend to marry youngest or middle children; whereas, a middle child will marry a younger or oldest child.   He states that we like the roles we play in life and enjoy abiding by what we know.

In the career world, older children take something stable like a government job, accounting or a leadership role. Younger children like to have careers that are noticed- a radio deejay, a politican or a dancer.  Middle children will find a role where they can nurture or keep the peace, like a teacher or in healthcare.

Similarly, children might have different interests based on when they were born. An oldest child might enjoy academic activities or be the captain of the football team. As a reminder, the oldest likes to excel in what he does and possesses maturity in his role.  Younger children will be more outgoing and seek to perform- dance, music or acting might be more their style.  They enjoy the spotlight.

Parents should not be concerned if their children do not easily fall into one of these categories.  Kids who are the only child can possess each of these characteristics. Likewise, if there is a big gap in your children’s ages, you might have two children with first-born characteristics.

Overall, it important to love and nurture your child where they are at without having expectations that the second or third child should be just like the first child. Enjoy celebrating the different characteristics in each of your family members.  Variety is the spice of life!

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014