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If you have brothers or sisters, you've probably wondered why you're so different, or why your parents treat you differently. 

 Well, you can stop wondering, because there's actually an explanation. Psychologist Kevin Leman has been investigating the effects of birth order since 1967 and has published the findings in his book The Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are. Dr. Leman is among a group of psychologists who believe that the order in which we are born is a major factor in determining our personality.

Being the eldest, middle, youngest or only child, apparently has a great impact on who you become as a person. This has as much to do with your interaction with siblings as it does with the way your parents treat you.

Children who are born first have inexperienced parents and therefore become something of an experiment. Each step in the child-raising process basically amounts to "trial and error." Firstborns enjoy their parents' undivided attention, but their parents also tend to be more strict with them. This usually leads to the eldest child becoming a perfectionist.

But when a second child arrives, the parents' attitude usually changes. They now know what works and what doesn't, and they tend to be less strict. Second children automatically receive less attention because their parents have to divide their time and energy between two. This usually causes the second child to develop behaviors that please others and aim to gain their approval. They also aren't as interested in perfection as their older siblings.

Given this, we can highlight the following personality traits according to the order of birth:

  • Firstborn: being the "leaders of the pack," firstborns are noted for being trustworthy, conscientious, structured, cautious, controlling and achievement-oriented. In general, they become a kind of "mini-adult," since the responsibility for many things often falls on them and not on their younger siblings.
  • Middle child: being neither the oldest nor the youngest makes middle children feel somewhat misunderstood within the family unit. Therefore, they strive to "leave their mark" and be noticed. Middle children are preoccupied with pleasing others and often play the peacemaker role. They tend to have a large social circle, but can also be somewhat rebellious.
  • Last born: the youngest child in a family is usually the most free-spirited compared to his or her siblings. A child who is born last does not complicate life, loves to have fun and is extroverted, but also manipulative (they always get what they want). They also tend to be self-centered attention seekers.

And? How well do these descriptions match your personality? Be honest, now. I'm a firstborn and mine was pretty accurate... at least all the good stuff ;-)

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