Amongst all the different theories that are linked to child psychological development, birth order has a particular relevance for parents when it comes to sibling rivalry, which is an issue that frequently pervades families of various sizes, combinations of sexes and age gaps between brothers and sisters.
The idea that siblings clash, bond or relate to one another based on the order in which they were born may shed some light on the quality of the relationships between certain family members. And although birth order is one of many things that can influence someone's personality in conjunction with parenting style, gender expectations, family structure, genetics, environmental factors and individual experiences, parents may find it useful to understand the main aspects to find ways to encourage siblings to have positive relationships even when there is rivalry.
Here are the most common personality traits that are shared by lots of people born in a particular order within different families, in relation to their older or younger siblings:
The eldest child
After receiving undivided attention from parents before any other siblings were born, the eldest child benefits from this by having the intelligence and confidence that comes with more self-focus, in addition to the sense of expectation and maturity that comes with being the oldest. Relationships with younger siblings often depend on the inclination of the eldest child to accept and relate to them. They are trailblazers for many life experiences and milestones and strive for achievement in many areas for this same reason. They are often the dominant partners in relationships with the need to be in control.
The second eldest child
The second born child is different to a middle child, whereby the second eldest is born directly after the first born child (not third or fourth in a family of four or more children) and defines himself or herself in relation to the older sibling, often by being completely different, and emphasising the things he or she does well.
The middle child
Middle children tend to be able to find common ground with many people, as this is what they are used to doing in the family, and will often take a backseat role when it comes to conflict. They are also highly adaptable. Some studies have shown middle children tend to be the most unhappy out of all the children in a family.
The youngest child
The youngest child will often be aware of the dynamics between his or her older siblings and be very manipulative and behave accordingly when it comes to his or her own place in the family. The youngest child's level of maturity is based on how he or she observes people and if he or she grows up more quickly as a result, or allows himself or herself to remain in the youngest child role. The youngest child's social and communication skills are often highly developed because of spending time with older siblings.
The only child
An only child often has characteristics of both the oldest child and the youngest child, and while an only child never has to define himself or herself in relation to siblings, it will affect how he or she interacts with people outside the family.
The most fundamental aspect of birth order is that it acknowledges that how people see themselves within their family unit, and how it influences their overall health and happiness as they grow into adults.
But the level of involvement parents take in sibling conflict can also play a part in how it develops or declines, and parents need to remember that siblings will not always necessarily get along and take a long term view rather than forcing anything so that even when they argue siblings learn to be friends on their own terms, without any intervention.
Comparison or favouritism in any way should also be avoided. The constancy of parental love is crucial to all the children in a family having a good sense of self-esteem and self-belief.
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- Essential Kids