Stevie Martin | Staff Writer | Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Does Birth Order Determine Personality?

Does Birth Order Determine Personality?

The Debrief: Is the first born necessarily the most mature, and the last born the most attention-seeking? Huge new study has the answer

There’s been a lot of research recently implying that the order you’re born in within your family determines what you’re like as a person – but new research challenges this.

Sorry firstborns, turns out you’re not necesarily going to be the most ambitious, academically gifted and more mature. Middle children won’t definitely be the most socially flexible and laidback and – good news – the youngest child isn’t predetermined to be a total twonk (less responsible and a bit immature).

Why? Because new studies by the University of Leipzig, Germany, found that birth order doesn’t affect what it known as the ‘big five’ of personality traits: extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness or openness to experience. Plus, they studied around 20,000 people from the UK, America and Germany, so it’s fairly comprehensive. 

One thing that did come out, though, was that firstborns tended to score higher on intelligence. 

‘A firstborn can “tutor” their younger siblings, explaining how the world works and so on,’ said Julia Rohrer, lead researcher and graduate student of the university. ‘Teaching other people has high cognitive demands – the children need to recall their own knowledge, structure it and think of a good way to explain it, which could be a boost to intelligence for some firstborns.’ 

In terms of personality, though, the idea that firstborns are more mature could just be people confusing this with the usual passage of time, and the maturity that comes with it. ‘We might wrongly confuse age effects with birth order effects. The relevant question for detecting a birth order effect would rather be: “Will my younger sister be at my level of conscientiousness when she is as old as I am now?”’ 

So there you go, guys – your personality isn’t fated depending on when your parents conceived you in relation to your siblings. You’re free from the shackles of destiny. 

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Tags: Science Says, Health