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How your birth order affects your adult life

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

The one in the middle's the green kangaroo

Some experts believe birth order — whether we're the eldest, the middle child or the baby — has an effect on who we become later in life. Is there any truth to that?

Three sisters

Can birth order really affect your personality? While it's not an exact science, a lot of what they say adds up. Parents typically look at how this affects their kids, but how does it affect who you are as an adult? First, let's take a look at some typical characteristics of birth order.

First-born*

  • Perfectionist
  • Achiever
  • Conscientious
  • Loyal
  • Well-organized (list-makers)
  • Reliable
  • Goal-oriented
  • Self-sacrificing
  • Critical
  • Conservative
  • Scholarly
  • Rule-followers (and makers)
  • Inferiority issues
  • Self-reliant
  • Serious

Middle children

  • Mediators
  • Conflict-avoiders
  • Peer-centric
  • Feel misunderstood
  • Balanced
  • Listeners

Last-born

  • Outgoing
  • Absentminded
  • Carefree
  • Affectionate
  • Rebellious
  • Temperamental
  • Spoiled
  • Impatient
  • Charming
  • Manipulative
  • Independent
* Only children are similar to first-borns, but much more so, and often a bit more self-centered.

Marriage

Your birth order doesn't inherently affect whether you'll get or stay married, but when compared to your spouse, it could affect other things. Marrying someone who has the same birth order as you means you need to look out for certain kinds of problems.

  • Two first-borns may have a power struggle.
  • Two middle children may have communication problems.
  • Two babies may have chaos in the form of money problems and other domestic issues — someone has to be responsible for paying the bills!

In general, marrying someone who's opposite you has good results, though. First-borns or middle children and babies make a great pair. But the best pairing seems to be first-borns and middle children.

Source: The Birth Order Book — Why You Are The Way You Are by Dr. Kevin Leman (2004)

IQ

While still controversial, evidence found by a Norwegian study suggested that older siblings have an IQ of about three points higher than that of their younger siblings. Much more research must be done into why, but this is a long-standing assertion. First-borns have actually won more Nobel prizes than younger siblings, but in keeping with the characteristics of their nature, they've won for advancing our understanding, not by turning it on its head (that's the purview of babies of the fam!)

Career

CareerBuilder did a study in 2011 on how birth order affects your career. It should come as no surprise that first-borns are the most likely to have a top executive position and bring down six figures. Those three IQ points could make the difference between a high B average and a low A average, which could affect admission to better schools. Plus, first-borns have been leaders all their lives.

Interestingly, the study found that middle children, rather than being middle on the list job-wise, are the most likely to hold an entry-level position and make less than $35,000 a year. The babes are actually the ones most likely to work in middle management.

Birth order doesn't determine your lot in life

Regardless of the averages (and that's all these are), birth order doesn't determine who you become or how successful you can be. Theses stats are largely the results of behaviors you develop as a result of what's expected of people in your position. And behaviors can be modified!

Tell us

What do you think? Has birth order affected your life? Tell us in the comments below.

More on personality traits

Middle child syndrome
Do parenting styles determine adult personalities?
Tips for making new friends as an adult

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