If you have multiple children, chances are you’ve noticed that not only does each one have a different personality, but that personality seems to match their birth order as well. Perhaps your oldest child is the boss, while your middle child is the introvert. Your youngest is likely the class clown, and if you have more than three, you notice how these natural birth order tendencies change with each additional child. Obviously, gender also affects a child’s place in the family. If, for instance, you have an only boy preceded by more than one daughter, you have probably observed how he is mothered by them all.
For decades, scientists have studied the effects of birth order on our personalities and development. “Kids learn their role in their family,” Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist and the author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are (Revell) and The First-Born Advantage, told The Huffington Post. “Firstborns are held to a higher standard. As kids come into the birth order, parents loosen up.”
Characteristics of First Born Children:

  • achievement driven
  • leaders
  • people pleasers
  • often “parent” other siblings
  • confident
  • perfectionist

Because firstborns follow their parents’ lead, they like taking charge and have oodles of confidence, says Leman in Parents Magazine. Leman also recognizes that firstborns want to do everything correctly the first time because they are imitating the adults in their lives. Your firstborn desires everything to be just so and you may have to work harder to help this child overcome failure.
“A child’s position in the family impacts his personality, his behavior, his learning and ultimately his earning power,” states Michael Grose, author of Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It. “Most people have an intuitive knowledge that birth order somehow has an impact on development, but they underestimate how far-reaching and just how significant that impact really is.”
Research shows firstborns’ tendencies toward perfectionism and leadership often yield higher education and greater net worth than their siblings. Famous firsborns include most Presidents (both Bill and Hillary Clinton are firstborns), every USA astronaut, and even all the movie stars to play James Bond (think Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan). Firstborns outrank all other birth orders at Ivy League schools and are most likely to major in medicine and law.
As a parent, your own place in the birth order of your family affects your choices. Firstborn parents tend to micromanage in order to assure everything is done correctly. They must guard against this natural inclination so their children learn independence and confidence in their own special abilities.
Interesting, isn’t it? This is the first in our birth order series for the month of September. Next week, we’ll talk about the middle child!
Check out the rest of our Birth Order Series:
The Middle Child
The Youngest Child
The Only Child