Real Talk 21st April 2023 by Adele Miner
Why Birth Order Psychology Is The New Astrology
I have BSE – Big Sister Energy.
This means I’m probably a bit bossy, I like to take the lead, and I have a hard time admitting when I’m wrong. It also means that I’m fiercely protective, loyal, and responsible. I’ve never connected much with my star sign. I’m a Leo, and sure some traits ring true, but for the most part, I’d never consider myself to be a confident extrovert, who loves luxury – quite the opposite in fact. But I do resonate with my birth order personality.
I’m the eldest child of two, with a brother who’s 6 years younger than me. Since I was old enough to think, I wanted to be a big sister. I wanted a sibling I could guide and help, or boss around, if you ask my brother. At 6 I snapped straight into Big Sis mode, playing teacher with him when he was weeks old and just happy to be a part of something, zero thoughts, just existing on vibes. Fast forward twenty-odd years and not much has changed – especially the few thoughts part. That’s what us big sisters do though isn’t it? Humble our siblings. If you can’t take a slagging then you’re not cutout to be a younger sibling.
Essentially, the birth order psychology theory suggests the sequence in which a child is born in their family; eldest, middle, or youngest, shapes their thoughts and behaviours. Developed by psychotherapist Alfred Adler in the 1900s, it’s still referenced today. Think of your favourite famous families. Kourtney Kardashian is the eldest, and usually the one tied up in the most fights because she has no issue setting personal boundaries. Or Prince Harry, who literally wrote an autobiography on being the ‘spare’ to the ‘heir’ ie, the youngest sibling, and how his pecking order shaped his life.
Psychotherapist Stina Sanders shares her thoughts on the theory on TikTok, listing the different traits often associated with your placement. If you’re the oldest sibling, you’re likely the ‘guinea pig’ she says, “When it comes to first-borns, parents can be overly strict and overly attentive. This in turn can make children become perfectionists. Firstborns tend to be overachievers and have an intense fear of failure.” That sounds about right in my case. Stina adds that middle children are “often aware that they don’t get as much attention as their other siblings so they tend to be people pleasers. They can also be rebellious and form strong friendships.”
And the youngest children are the most free-spirited of us all. “This is because parents are way more relaxed when it comes to these babies. Last-borns cans sometimes feel like ‘nothing I do matters’ and this could be because their accomplishments aren’t original. They’re usually natural charmers and incredibly funny.” Only children are included too, and if that’s you, Stina says you’re in a unique position. “You have all of your parents’ support, and sometimes all of their pressure too. Only children are often confident, they can be perfectionists and they can also be really mature. They’re like super firstborns.”
@samanthatannor The psychology of birth order dynamics! I’m the oldest and marrying the youngest but I think there’s something to it #birthorder #psychology #oldestchild #middlechild #youngestchild #dating ♬ original sound – sweetsaudioz
I wonder how exactly our birth order can determine our whole personality. Meri Wallace explains it simply in her book Birth Order Blues: “Some of it has to do with the way the parent relates to the child in his spot, and some of it actually happens because of the spot itself. Each spot has unique challenges.” In essence, every person sees the world in a different way based on what they think their place in it is, and acts accordingly. Chatting with a fellow big sister, STELLAR’s Bronwyn O’Neill connects with me on our similar personality traits, “Like all big sisters, I love to be in charge,” she says.
“I can be stubborn in the same breath, which is a good and a bad thing. I’m over-protective and probably a bit over-sensitive too, but that’s not a bad thing.” With a 15-year age gap between her and her siblings, she says that their birth order has impacted their personalities greatly. “Despite the fact there’s such a big age gap between me and my siblings, I definitely have eldest daughter syndrome. Meanwhile, my little sister, who is the youngest is the peak stereotype for the youngest child. My brother has a mix of that middle child with only boy syndrome, so he’s definitely able to hold his own.”
What happens when you’re the middle child and the only girl? Well, Grace* shares her experience with having one older and one younger brother, and the way she feels their birth order affected their personalities growing up. “I’m a middle child, but I’m also the only daughter, which meant I definitely didn’t lack attention being in between two boys. I was also quite shy as a kid which I think is different to the stereotypical middle child who can be thought of as an extrovert, although I did love the spotlight and performing, which is pretty in check with middle child traits.”
Explaining the different personalities she and each of her siblings have, Grace added: “I’m the most emotionally charged of the three of us. I’m creative and a dreamer, and I like to try to seethe good in the world. The eldest is very independent and practical, a natural-born leader as you would expect from a first-born, and the youngest is a real confident charmer, he definitely has main character energy.” Grace is the perfect example of how birth order can leave an imprint but also not determine your entire personality.
Birth order psychology leaves little room for nuance, things like gender, parenting styles, and blended families have just as much impact on your personality as the position in your family, as psychotherapist Stina agrees. Still though, based on evidence, it’s a theory that’s hard to contest, despite all its caveats. So perhaps the next time you’re on a date or getting to know someone, you should spend less time looking into their rising sign or what time they were born, and instead ask them where they fall in the family, to get a real sense of who they are.
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