Understanding the effects of sibling order can help you navigate relationships

What You Never Knew About Birth Order

You already know the stereotypes about birth order and personality type. Perhaps you have a bossy oldest sister, or a youngest brother who keeps the family in stitches.

Well, it turns out that these stereotypes have some basis in fact and experience.

It is likely that birth order impacts an individual because of changes that occur naturally in the family. A family with one child is very different than a family with two or three or five children.

And the children – as well as the adults we become – are different as a result.



What shapes first-born children?

New parents are typically fussy and protective. Thus, first-born children are exposed to lots of rules and careful scrutiny. Their lives are very controlled. Then, as their families expand, they take on more and more responsibilities. They see fulfillment in taking care of others and – more importantly – this concern for others is a responsibility baked deep into the core of their being.


Meyers-Briggs type

First-borns almost 20% of the time fall into one particular Meyers-Briggs type: ESTJ. These thinking-judging types are definitely a product of their environment. They have been caring for others since they were old enough to care for themselves, and it shows.


Personal tendencies

First-borns, incubated in a bubble of rules and regulations, then suddenly placed in charge of their siblings, simply don’t know how NOT to be in charge. They take charge like lives depend on it – because from an early age they were told this message.

They are good with responsibility and are natural organizers and nurturers. However, they will likely focus on your physical needs more than your emotional needs.


Middle Children

What shapes middle-born children?

Second and other middle-born children are more relaxed than their oldest sibling. Why shouldn’t they be? They were raised in a more laid-back environment. Their life often involved navigating between their parents and their “other parent” – their oldest sibling. They had fewer responsibilities, but more oversight.


Meyers-Briggs type

Middle children congregate around one particular Meyers-Briggs type unlike any other group. 40% of ISFP types identify as middle children. These feelers are prone to develop a large number of friends, using the same skills they likely learned by navigating


Personal tendencies

Middle children learned to navigate their environment by negotiating between parents and “parents” – their oldest siblings. Thus they naturally became “feelers” or negotiators. Feeling less weight of responsibility, they had more fun and freedom.

They are quicker to laugh and assume that things will be okay. They tend to strive for peace between warring parties.

Understanding the effects of sibling order can help you navigate relationships
Understanding the effects of sibling order can help you navigate relationships. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Youngest children

What shapes youngest children

Youngest children often are freed of all the boundaries and restrictions placed on first born children. No longer are their parents afraid that every sniffle is the flu. They are more likely to be coddled than corrected. They sometimes even have to compete for the attention of their parents and oldest siblings, though many of those siblings may see the last-born almost as their own child.


Meyers-Briggs type

The youngest children, expectedly, don’t fall into any one category. They are largely attention-hungry and tend toward ESFP – they are sensing-perceivers. They have a vision for how they want to feel at the end of an event, but maybe not how to pull it all off.


Personal tendencies

The babies of the family naturally become entertainers. They generally can crack everyone up.

Life for them has been uncomplicated, and things generally roll their way. They live their lives this same way, largely. Confident that things will work out, they can take more risks. And if they fail, they are quick to rebound.

This mimics their early experiences. As children, someone would always be there to pick them up. They dust themselves off and get right back up and into the next adventure.


Only children

What shapes onlies

These first-born children seem to take advantage of the structure of being first-borns with some of the coddling that shapes last-borns. That is, they grow up permanently encased in a safe, protected, supportive, and attentive family unit that is centered on them.

They can develop unique personalities and be seen sometimes as eccentric. This was fostered by their parents, and serves them well in adulthood … until it doesn’t. A lack of a support structure can hurt them later on as their parents age and they find themselves feeling truly alone.


Meyers-Briggs type

ESTP Meyers-Briggs types tended to be only-children with higher correlation than any other type had to any other birth order. This is a remarkably strong correlation.

They are thinkers, perceivers, and intuitives. No one was ever there to question any of their thought and intuitions, so they have learned to trust them.


Personal tendencies

Confident and independent, only children can become creative individuals with confidence in their creations. They seek reinforcement from others, but are able to discard negative feedback that disagrees with their own take on things. After all, their own judgement got them this far!


How does birth order shape you?

Do the above descriptors fit you? Do they answer questions for you? Do they raise others?

Are you wondering how this might help you solve problems with your siblings, or among your children?

Talk with a counselor today. Schedule online, meet online, and get the help you need.

Sakina Issa has the experience to help you sort out difficult problems with achieving your goals, managing your family, and raising well-adjusted children who can navigate life with confidence and achieve their own goals.

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