Sibling Position, Part 2
Yesterday, we began talking about how a person’s position among his or her siblings plays a role in personality development. Today, I’d like to present the general characteristics of ten sibling positions and the characteristics that are common to them, all things being equal. Of course, we must keep in mind that these positions are descriptive, not prescriptive; there are many other variables that can skew the development of these general patterns, the most significant variable being the level of differentiation of the parents.
Oldest children tend to have many parental qualities; they can be nurturing and can often handle responsibility well and assume leadership roles, along with the tension and seriousness that comes with responsibility. They are typically conscientious and hard-working, although they have difficulty accepting criticism. They often grow up guarding the status quo, preserving family traditions and morality. If the siblings that follow are of the same gender, these characteristics will tend to be intensified, but they will moderate if the younger siblings are of the opposite gender.
An oldest sister of sisters is usually bright, strong, independent, well-organized, domineering, self-confident, outgoing, and opinionated. Her best match is with the youngest brother of sisters, who is used to having a stronger woman in his life. The oldest brother of brothers is the worst match because both tend to want to be in charge.
The oldest sister of brothers is also strong and independent, and men are often the most important thing in her world. Her best choice of mate is the youngest brother of sisters, because that’s the arrangement both are used to. Her poorest match is the oldest brother of brothers, due to the power struggles that typically ensue.
The oldest brother of brothers is usually the boss, and likes to be in charge of all aspects of his life. He is successful, gets along well with others, but isn’t on intimate terms with anyone. He likes to be mothered, expects a lot, but usually gives little. His best match is the youngest sister of brothers, or an oldest sister of brothers since she will be maternal. The worst match would be with the oldest sister of sisters, due to ranking issues.
The oldest brother of sisters is more easygoing then the oldest brother of brothers. He is fond of women and is considerate of them. He is best matched with the youngest sister of brothers, which duplicates the position he was in as a child. The oldest sister of sisters is the most difficult match, although he could make it work since he’s good at pleasing females. Whomever he chooses, his wife is usually more important to him than his children, though he’s a good father, as well—concerned but not overly strict.
The youngest child gets lots of attention because everyone else in the family feels some responsibility for taking care of the youngest, who learns to expect good things from life. Youngest children tend to have fewer expectations placed upon them, and as a result tend to achieve less. They also tend to depend on others to make their decisions for them. They tend to be more creative, less conventional, and more adventurous than their older siblings. They are more likely to be followers than leaders, and tend to be sociable, easy-going and popular.
The youngest sister of sisters often acts the youngest all her life, and can play the feminine role to the hilt. Her best-matched mate is usually the oldest brother of sisters who can handle her manipulations. Her poorest choice would be the youngest brother of brothers since neither would nurture the other very well, and since neither is used to opposite sex peers.
The youngest sister of brothers is usually congenial, optimistic, attractive and fun-loving. She is fond of men, and will consider her husband her prized possession, while still having several male friends or mentors besides her husband. Her best marriage match is the oldest brother of sisters. The youngest brother of brothers is usually her worst match since they’ll both want to be taken care of, with little patience for gender differences.
The youngest brother of brothers is daring, headstrong, capricious, unpredictable, and often rebellious. He doesn’t like losing, leaves if things aren’t going well, but can be carefree and good-natured when there is little stress. He’s usually shy with women, so the oldest sister of brothers is his best match, especially if she’s maternal. The most difficult match would be with the youngest sister of sisters, because neither would want to run the household.
The youngest brother of sisters is usually taken care of by women all his life. As a boy, he was likely doted on simply because of his gender (surveys indicate most parents want a boy), so he expects to expend limited efforts to achieve what he wants. He is best matched with the oldest sister of brothers, who is good at taking care of men.
The middle child tends to have a less distinctive identity, and is more difficult to describe. Middle children are simultaneously younger siblings to the ones who came before and older siblings to the ones who came after. Although there are countless variations in the ages, sexes, and number of other siblings, middle children tend to have more of the characteristics of the birth order position that he or she is closest to. If they are directly in the middle, they will share more of both youngest and oldest profile characteristics. They lack the authority of the oldest and the spontaneity of the youngest, but they become adept in dealing with all kinds of people.
The way the sexes and ages of the siblings are distributed is most important to the personality development of the middle child. A middle boy with an older sister and younger brother will have a different profile than if he had a younger sister and older brother. If all the children are the same gender, the middle child has the greatest disadvantage, as he or she will receive the least attention and have the most need to compete.
The only child is perpetually the oldest and youngest child and will have the characteristics of both. More than any other sibling position, the only child picks up the characteristics of the same-sex parent’s sibling position. Only children tend to demand a lot from life and are usually successful. However, never having lived with a peer, living with a partner presents unique challenges.
The male only child tends to be more favored than the female only child, and he tends to expect life to favor him. He tends to be a loner, and for a mate, can take or leave just about any woman, expecting her to make life easier for him without giving her much in return. The youngest or middle sister of brothers is his best match, since he would have been an oldest brother had there been other children. Another only child would be the worst match, as both would struggle with the unfamiliarity of a close peer, opposite sex relationship.
The female only child often feels she is special, craving approval and adoration. She is both mature for her age and perpetually childish. The least contentious match for her would be flexible, easy-going and good-natured, able to cope with her capriciousness and her tendency to test his love. An older man is usually best, and his birth order position is irrelevant since the female only child had no sibling peers. Like the male only child, another only child would be the most difficult match for the female only child.
Twins present a unique sibling configuration. If there are no other children in the family, twins will act like two siblings of whatever gender they are, without the age conflict. They’ll have the characteristics of the youngest and oldest of their gender. When other children are present, both will have more characteristics of the birth position they share. They tend to act as a team, and sometimes find it difficult to leave each other to marry, and when they do, they often marry twins.
For more information about sibling positions and profiles, see Birth Order & You, by Ronald W. Richardson and Lois A. Richardson; and Family Constellation: Its Effect on Personality and Social Behavior, 4th Edition, by Walter Toman.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss the concept of societal regression: how emotional problems in society reflect the emotional problems in families.