Descriptive, not Prescriptive Profiles
Yesterday we’ve began discussing the reality that the way we think about ourselves and others starts with how our family members relate to us as males or females, and as first, middle or last born. There’s an infinite number of combinations of birth order positions, depending on the number of siblings, their gender and their relative ages, but all things being equal, there are some distinct patterns that can help us understand common personality profiles. Today, we’ll zero in on oldest children.
Let’s start with noting a couple caveats, however. First, if there are more than five years between siblings, each will be more like an only child. When there are large gaps between siblings, sub-groups will form, with the individuals in the sub-group developing the characteristics of the position they occupy within that group. The smaller the age difference between siblings, the more they influence each other.
Second, the profiles of each position are descriptive, not prescriptive. No one fits his or her birth order profile exactly because there are many other family variables that modify these characteristics, but the typical patterns can help you identify the possible origins of some aspects of your personality, the personality of your mate, and those of other loved ones, too. It’s particularly helpful to see how the mix of your partner’s and your birth order positions may affect your relationship. All things being equal, matches usually work best when birth order and gender order are well matched, meaning that the couple most nearly duplicates the age and gender arrangements both were used to as children.
We aren’t always attracted to someone with whom we are well-matched in birth order position, however. For example, two oldest children may enjoy the kindred spirit they share and the common burdens and frustrations they carry, but when they are living together, they may constantly battle over who’s boss.
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.
So that’s a start on typical birth order profiles. Tomorrow we’ll look at youngest children.
(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.)