"Birth order offers an intuitively appealing explanation for these perplexing differences." (Image via iStock.)
Anyone with siblings knows they can differ from us in maddening ways. They share our parents and our family history, but their personalities can be so different. Birth order offers an intuitively appealing explanation for these perplexing differences.
The only problem is, it’s a myth.
Psychologists have speculated on the effects of birth order on personality for well over a century. Sir Francis Galton – pioneer of statistics, fingerprint analysis, weather maps and arithmetic by smell – supposed that firstborn children benefited from greater responsibility and undivided parental attention. As a result they were over-represented among high achievers.
Alfred Adler, protégé of Sigmund Freud, argued that the dethroning of firstborns by younger siblings left an enduring impression on their character.
Firstborns, he argued, feel weighed down by responsibility and have neurotic and authoritarian tendencies. Laterborn siblings are often overindulged and seek creative alternatives to conventional achievement.