Introduction Birth order is a significant topicto research as it provides insight into how first, middle, and last-bornchildren are affected by various factors. According to Sulloway (1999), birthorder is defined as the order of children within a family. While there has beenresearch conducted on birth order, there seems to be a scarce amount ofliterature reviews.
Due to the limited amount of research conducted on birthorder, many may be unaware of the different factors that influence birth order.Because of this, it is important for other researchers to expand on previousresearchers work. Within this literature review, I will be focusing on fourdifferent areas associated with birth order.
These four areas includeparenting, personality, sibling relationships, and academics. These areas areextremely important to understand as they all affect birth order. Additionally,this literature review will be set-up by area as well as birth order (first,middle, and last-born). LiteratureReview Parenting Parenting is a significant factorregarding birth order as parents will treat each of their children differently.Various researchers have conducted research on parenting as a factor of birthorder. Additionally, many researchers go into detail as to how parents willtreat their first, middle, and last-born children. By providing thisinformation, many will gain a better understanding of how parenting affectsbirth order. Furthermore, readers will also understand how birth order affectsparenting.
First-bornchildren. According to Price (2008), first-born children are more likely tospend more time with their parents than their younger siblings. Specifically,first-born children spend more than 15-minutes with their parents than theiryounger siblings do when they are the same age.
Because of this, first-bornchildren wrestle with the idea of their parents having more children (Ha andTam, 2011). Because of this negative reaction, researchers proposed a theorythat focuses on the displacement of first-born children. This theory wasproposed because first-born children originally receive all their parent’sattention. When their parents decide to have more children, first-born childrenusually show resistance when sharing their parent’s attention. This then leadsfirst-born children to acquire personalities and features such aspunctiliousness, traditionalist, individuality, and capability. As shown, theseare not negative personalities and features to acquire (2011). This will bediscussed in greater detail within the personality section.
According to Hallers-Haalboom et al.(2014), first-born children tend to receive better care than their youngersiblings. Because of this, parents provide more structure, and have more expectationsof their first-born children than their younger children. One theory used tobetter explain parent and first-born children relationships is social exchangetheory (Suitor and Pillemer, 2007). Regarding birth order and parenting, socialexchange theory refers to the expectation parents set for their first-bornchildren to provide and care for them, as they once did. Because of thisexpectation, it was found that mothers are more likely to go to their first-bornchild when they are struggling with a problem. This alone shows that fist-bornchildren are at an increased risk of becoming parentified at a young age (2007).
One last factor regarding parentingand first-born children is if parents want to have more children after havingtheir first child. According to Markus (2010), parents are more likely to haveanother child if their first-born child expresses more positivity thannegativity. Additionally, if first-born children easily adjust to change, andshow a high ability to function, parents are more likely to have more children.Although, if first-born children show the opposite, parents are likely to stophaving children after one child. As shown, parents are just as likely aschildren to be influenced by birth order (2010). Middle-born children.
Throughvarious research, it was found that middle-born children are treatedsignificantly different than first-born and last-born children. According toPollet and Nettle (2009), middle-born children feel their parents are extremelydisciplinary and more frugal with them than their siblings. Once middle-bornchildren become financially independent, they start to view their parentsdifferently than they did before. Furthermore, middle-born children also feel thatthey are not as close to their parents as their siblings are. Additionally,middle-born children would choose a friend over a family member.
Because of howparents parent their middle-born child, and because of how middle-born childrenview their parents, parents are less likely to favor their middle-born child(2009). Throughout childhood, middle-bornchildren are the most likely to feel they must compete for their parent’sattention (Ha and Tam, 2011). Furthermore, middle-born children are not aslikely to believe they were respected or treasured as a child (Sulloway, 1999).Because of this, it makes sense that middle-born children are more likely tobecome autonomous within their family, and less family-oriented than theirsiblings.
Unlike first-born children, middle-born children do not have as muchstructure and expectations (Suitor and Pillemer, 2007). Therefore, it is easilyunderstood as to why middle-born children are more independent than theirsiblings. Additionally, middle-born children are more likely to live at agreater distance than their parents, and do not support their own offspring invisiting family members (Sulloway, 1999). As shown, middle-born children aretreated quite differently than first-born children (Ha and Tam, 2011; Sulloway,1999; Suitor and Pillemer, 2007). Last-bornchildren. Last-born children are treated a bit more differently thanfirst-born and middle-born children. According to Suitor and Pillemer (2007),parents tend to pay more attention to their last-born child than their otherchildren.
Additionally, many view the later-born child as the one who parentscoddle the most within the family. Last-born children usually know they aremore coddled than their siblings, so they will do what they can to fight fortheir parent’s attention. Furthermore, as opposed to their other children,parents have less disagreements and altercations with their last-born child. Thisis because parents usually have more knowledge regarding how to parentchildren. One last interesting fact about parents and last-born children isthat mothers reported feeling more emotionally connected to their last-bornchild once they are an adult.
As shown, last-born children seem to be parentedwith more nurturance and love than their older siblings (2007). Personality As shown above, each child withinthe family is treated a bit differently than the rest. By knowing thisinformation, it can help explain why each child has a different personalitythan their siblings. Furthermore, this section of the literature review willprovide details of each personality type acquired. By understanding all thisinformation, many will gain a better understanding as to how each child istreated within their family, and how they have developed their personality style.Within this section of the literature review, it is important to know thatpersonality is explained by five different traits (Costa and McCrae, 1992).
These five personality types include neuroticism, extraversion, openness,agreeableness, and conscientiousness (1992). First-bornchildren. From knowing how first-born children are treated and parentedwithin their family, one can assume that they develop a dominant personalitytype. According to Gupta (2017), first-born children are usually moreintellectual, structured, dependable, punctilious, analytical, stern,trustworthy, traditional, self-sufficient, and independent. Within the fivepersonality traits, it was found that first-borns are more conscientious thantheir siblings.
Furthermore, one study found that first-borns are more neuroticthan their siblings (2017). Regarding first-born children’spersonality type, first-born children are more likely to sustain family values,morals, and manners (Cundiff, 2013). Research has found this to be true becausefirst-borns are more traditional and strong-willed. Because of first-bornchildren’s personality type, they are less likely to engage in challenging ornegative behaviors (2013). Instead ofengaging in challenging behaviors, first-born children are more likely to be innovators,high-motivators, determined, and compliant (Ha and Tam, 2011).
As shown,first-born children are extremely likely to have a dominant personality (Cundiff,2013; Ha and Tam, 2011). Middle-born children. Because of howmiddle-born children are parented, one can assume that they have a more passivepersonality type. According to Gupta (2017), middle-born children arepeacekeepers, autonomous, dependable regarding friendships, and introverted.
They can also be kind, extroverted, relaxed, or easily irritated, andaggressive. This shows that middle-born children have a wide spread ofpersonality types they can acquire. Furthermore, within the five personality traits,middle-born children are more agreeable and open than first-born children(2017). Although middle-born children canacquire different personality traits, it was found that they are more likely tobecome disobedient and unruly (Cundiff, 2013).
Researchers believe this to betrue because of the poor parental control, guidance, and supervision.Furthermore, middle-born children are more likely than first-born children touse a variety of illegal substances, and involve themselves in dangerous andunsafe sexual behavior (2013). According to Ha and Tam (2011), middle-bornchildren struggle in getting attention from their parents. Because of this, itis easily understood as to why middle-born children involve themselves ininappropriate and problematic behavior, as they are seeking attention fromoutside sources (2011).
Last-bornchildren. Although middle-born children and last-born children are parentedcompletely different, their personality traits are similar. According to Gupta(2017), last-born children are extroverted, friendly, schemers, humorous,cheery, relaxed, vibrant, lively, and people pleasers. Furthermore, it wasfound that last-born children are more enthusiastic than middle-born andfirst-born children. Additionally, within the five personality traits, they aremore likely than first-born children to be open and agreeable (2017). Similarly to middle-born children,last-born children are also more likely to engage in negative and problematicbehaviors (Cundiff, 2013). According to research, last-born children are extremelydefiant and uncontrollable compared to first-born children.
This could be becauselast-born children do not take as much responsibility as their siblings.Furthermore, last-born children, just as middle-born children, are more likelyto engage in dangerous, risky, and negative behaviors. And, just as middle-bornchildren, last-born children are more likely than first-born children to use avariety of illegal substances, and involve themselves in unsafe sexual behavior.As shown, middle-born and last-born children have similar personalities, anddiffer greatly from first-born children (2013).
Sibling relationships Itis extremely important to understand how birth order affects and influencessibling relationships. With how each child is parented, and their differentpersonalities, many have wondered how birth order plays a role into siblingrelationship. This section of the literature review will provide answers tothose who are exceptionally curious. Furthermore, many may be able to correlateparenting, personalities, and sibling relationships together.
This will thengive readers a better understanding of birth order and its effects. First,middle, and last-born children. Whilethere have not been many studies conducted on birth order and siblingrelationships within the past ten years, Pollet and Nettle conducted a study onhow birth order affects and influences sibling relationships (2009). Accordingto the researchers, first-born children have more personal contact with theiryounger siblings. Researchers believe this to be true because, as statedpreviously, first-born children are more likely to become parentified thantheir younger siblings.
Furthermore, it is more likely for first-born childrento have a great relationship and connection with their younger siblings thantheir younger siblings have with them. Although, middle-born children are morelikely than last-born children to have a poorer relationship family members.Interestingly, first-born children are also more likely than their youngersiblings to choose their siblings over peers and/or friends. As shown, one canassume that first-born children are more family-oriented than middle-born andlast-born children (2009). Because first-born children take amore parentified stance with their younger siblings, there is likely to beconflict between each sibling.
According to Sulloway (1999), first-bornchildren are extremely likely to use violence, hostility, and bullying towardstheir younger siblings. They tend to command and control the middle-born andlast-born siblings. Because of this harsh behavior, it was found thatmiddle-born and last-born children are likely to unite and connect forcesagainst their older sibling. This can then cause sibling conflict within thefamily. As shown, first-born children’s dominate personality can negatively affecttheir younger siblings by how they interact with them (1999). Academic performance Withinfamilies, sibling academic performance varies. It can be assumed that somesiblings perform better academically than other siblings.
Researchers wereinterested in understanding if birth order affects academic performance. Notsurprisingly, researchers did find a difference in academic performance betweenfirst-born, middle-born, and last-born children. This section of the literaturereview will help many gain a better understanding of who excels academically,and who does not. First,middle, and last-born children. According to Ha and Tam (2011), first-bornchildren have a desire to satisfy their parents by excelling academically.
Because of this, first-born children are more intelligent, knowledgeable, andscholarly than middle-born and last-born children. Furthermore, first-bornchildren are more likely to help their younger siblings with academics. Becausemiddle-born and last-born children are less likely to educate their siblings,they are less likely than first-born children to do well academically (2011). Besides first-born childreneducating their younger siblings, they are also more determined when it comesto academics (Hotz and Pantano, 2015). Theseresearchers believe this may be true because of the amount of pressure theyreceive from their parents. Furthermore, parents are more likely to monitortheir first-born child academically than their middle-born and last-bornchildren.
Additionally, research has found that over 30% of first-born childrenare in the top percent of their class. While this shows how well first-bornchildren perform academically, more research is needed to better understand howmiddle-born and last-born children perform academically (2015). Conclusion Birth order is an area that needs tobe continuously researched. According to research, first-born children areparentified, middle-born children are more disciplined, and last-born childrenreceive more attention from their parents (Suitor and Pillemer, 2007; Polletand Nettle, 2009). Furthermore, first-born children are more dependable,traditional, and structured (Gupta, 2017). Middle-born children can greatlyvary between introversion, extroversion, relaxed, and aggressive. Lastly,last-born children are more friendly, humorous, and cheery (2017). Additionally,first-born children are more likely to have a better connection andrelationship with their younger siblings (Pollet and Nettle, 2009).
Although,first-born children are more likely to use violence, hostility, and bullyingtowards their younger siblings (Sulloway, 1999). Because of this hostility,younger siblings are likely to unite and connect forces against their oldersibling (1999). Finally, first-born children are likely to help their youngersibling with academics (Ha and Tam, 2011). Because of this and many otherfactors, first-born children are more likely to excel academically (Hotz andPantano, 2015). As shown, birth order affects manydifferent areas within a child’s life.
Birth order affects parenting,personalities, sibling relationships, and academics. While these are majorareas within a child’s life, it would be ideal for various researchers to lookat different areas such as friendships, how they parent their own children,romantic relationships, etc. Since there is a lack of research, it is importantfor researchers to continuously conduct research on birth order to educate amultitude of people.