Stuck in the middle with who?

Birth order may influence your personality more than you think

Birth order theory says that a person’s position in the family, relative to other siblings, is a determining factor in personality development. The most common roles are oldest, middle and youngest child—but even only children are included.
Birth order theory says that a person’s position in the family, relative to other siblings, is a determining factor in personality development. The most common roles are oldest, middle and youngest child—but even only children are included.

Some would say the root of Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell’s extremely public beefing is a yearning for publicity or celebrity-induced mental instability. Others would say that it all comes down to birth order.

Birth order theory is the idea that each person has a specific role or place in the family (for instance, first-born child, only child, middle child, etc.), and their personality is shaped by the nature of that role.

The theory was originally developed in the 1920’s by an Australian medical doctor named Alfred Adler. For the most part, he used a three-child family model to describe first-born, middle and youngest-child personalities.

Since Adler, a number of other researchers have looked into the science behind his theory, including Cecile Ernst and Jules Angst, who tried to examine all of the birth order research done between 1946 and 1980.

Natalie Klas, a former graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, compiled all of the literature on birth order for her thesis. She has assembled the work of a number of researchers and to present a combined set of birth order categories. The most common archetypes referred to are only child, first-born, middle and youngest.

Only children, who never feel they have to fight for or earn their parents’ love, are also not required to share or work in a team. They are often confident, organized and scholarly.

Famous only children include Leonardo da Vinci, Robin Williams and Gerald Ford.

The first-born child is the entire focus of the family until the second child is born. He or she is often pushed and encouraged to succeed in ways that younger siblings are not, and are required to set an example. First-borns often have a lot of confidence, but they put a lot of pressure on themselves to please others.

George W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are all first-borns.

Middle children are born having to share their parents’ attention with an older sibling, and can struggle with feeling the need to prove themselves. They are often natural peacemakers, with intuitive emotional and communicative skills. They are also known as team-players and tend to have a lot of friends.

Middle children Barbara Walters, Susan B. Anthony, Fidel Castro and Charles Darwin are all famous because of their ability to communicate. In the Donald’s case, a middle-child competitive complex may have him striving to come out on top of his beef with Rosie, who’s a youngest child.

Youngest children are the stars of the family. They’re in the spotlight and get attention from not only their parents, but older siblings as well. They’re especially affectionate, good problem-solvers and have great self-confidence.

It’s no surprise then, that Drew Carey, Jim Carey and Billy Crystal are all youngest children.

Of course, birth order can’t explain all personality differences. With variations between experiences and situations, many different things can affect personality. Even within the birth-order system, there can be variations. For instance, if a girl is born in the middle of a family of boys, she may manifest traits more like that of an only child. Some researchers say that in a family where there’s a gap of more than six years between siblings, the order starts over again.

The Journal’s staff has a disproportionate amount of first-born and only children, which fits with the theories that these types are organized, analytical and driven.

I decided to see how these stereotypes fit among the AMS executive.

Incoming AMS President Kingsley Chak is an only child. He said he thinks birth order isn’t the only factor in determining personality, but it does make a difference.

Members of the current AMS executive are even more unpredictable in terms of their birth order.

Vice-President (University Affairs) Megan Teuber is the oldest of two, making her position fitting to the first-born stereotype.

President James Macmillan is the middle child, but because his youngest brother is only nine years old, Macmillan technically fits the youngest child role.

“It’s interesting, I don’t really fit the stereotype,” he said.

VP (Operations) Ian Black is also the youngest of two children.

Though youngest children aren’t necessarily known as leaders, they are known for loving the limelight and having a lot of self-assurance—two things that may have helped MBT to get elected in the first place.

Some heterosexist conventional-types have set up elaborate tables explaining which birth-order types would do well in a marriage partnership; for example, supposedly the oldest brother of sisters and the youngest sister of brothers are a good match. In fact, American birth-order specialist Kevin Leman has set up a Christian dating service at that sets up God-fearing singles based on their birth order.

Birth order has been used as a parenting tool, as well. It serves as both a warning to parents—telling them not to spoil only children and not to give first-borns too much attention—and a guide for understanding their children.

The real world application of birth order theory may not be self-evident, but it’s definitely interesting to look at. Much like reading your Zodiac or taking a Meyers-Briggs test, it provides another lens for self-examination and to better understand our interpersonal relationships.

Overheard in Kingston

Guy: “I’m not gonna lie, I’ll probably wear something I pick up off my floor. Laundry is overrated … so is showering and cleanliness in general.”
—Outside the Starbucks at Johnson and Division

Bearded man: “I have a beard. That makes me marginalized.”
—At the Sleepless Goat

Girl: “Do you ever feel like you’re a spy?”
—In line at the Common Ground

Really serious guy, grabbing his friend’s arm: “No, no, no. Seriously, the only way you can kill Wolverine …”
—Walking through the JDUC

There’s only one more issue of Postscript left, and that means one more chance to get the ridiculous things you’ve overheard in Kingston into the Journal. Start eavesdropping and send that sugar to

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