Birth Order: Push Past the Stereotype

Birth Order: Push Past the Stereotype

By Arunima Rajan
Whether you are the first-born, middle child or the baby of the family, here’s how to slip out of your ‘predestined’ family role, while retaining the benefits

You might blame your parents for your short frame or odd hair, but what about your personality? Experts say that birth order can influence our sense of identity. And that, of course, has repercussions throughout our lives.

Fear not: we will show you how your birth order shapes you — and share how to either use it to your advantage, or step out of your predetermined role.


Research shows that first-born children are likely to be both more disciplined than younger siblings.

As a research paper from the University of California notes, “Controlled studies generally report that firstborns are more conscientious than laterborns, a difference that is exemplified by their being more responsible, ambitious, organised and academically successful.” Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. What’s more, it’s not just biology that influences the relationship between birth order and personality; environmental factors play a part too.
Parents are usually stricter with the first-born child, a factor that many researchers believe makes them stronger in the real world.

“As a first-born child, I had to take care of my sisters when my parents were not around. Eventually, this turned me into a person who always wanted to be in control of things,” says Jesudhas M, a first-born child.

“It also created a lot of stress at times, because friends looked up to me for solutions for their problems. When you take decisions and when they go wrong, it’s hard not to blame yourself for it.” There are benefits though — like sporting better language skills. “My father was an editor and his undivided attention during my formative years as the first child gave me better language skills.


Middle kids are usually more sociable than the first-born child, preferring jobs that require collaboration as they grow up.

“My elder sister is a big worrier and I’m more relaxed than her about problems. This must be because [my parents] were more relaxed by the time I was born,” grins Mithra, a professional working in the education sector.

“I am also considered the more diplomatic person among three siblings. My elder sister is more dominating, and the younger brother more demanding compared to me.”

Some middle-children can feel that their neither-here-nor-there role means their voice is not heard, but you can use this diplomatic spot to your advantage. “This childhood experience helped in my work-life to help my colleagues sort out their problems. Being a second child also forced me to focus on other skill sets [to stand out] like singing and sports, as my elder sister was a good student.”

The key, though, is that power dynamics change over time, and what may seem undesirable when you’re young actually helps you in later years. “It’s possible to change the power equation of the family,” Mithra says. “Today, people consult me more than my elder sister.”


The youngest children lean towards artsy or creative jobs, research shows. The babies of the family are usually very popular, as well.

Mathew, an academic, can back that up. “As the younger one of two siblings, I have often been coddled a lot.” In the Indian family scenario, the male child always receives a lot of attention, Mathew says, “So as the youngest and only male child, I was not short of any love or attention."


Do you relate to your birth-order stereotype? Mathew believes you need not let it be a framework that holds you back:

"While it might shape you in many ways, whether you are the first-born or last-born does not determine the kind of person you would be as an adult. As you grow older, your interaction with people outside your family will start having more impact. Ultimately it is how you respond to changing circumstances that determines who you will be in this world.”