First is the Worst, Second is the Best, Third is the One with the Hairy Chest

This topic submitted by Jim Broccolo and Astrid Senturia ( at 5:59 pm on 5/2/00. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins.

First is the Worst, Second is the Best, Third is the one with the Hairy ChestÖ
An in depth look at how birth order effects personality

Jim Broccolo and Astrid Senturia

I. Introduction

Birth order is an interesting aspect of life. It pertains to everyone. The most fascinating aspect of this study is that humans have no direct control over their birth order. Personality, which is directly related to birth order, plays such a major role in everyday life. Scientists and psychologists have been studying child development for a while and have come up with some interesting studies. Childhood development is influenced by several factors. Genetics, and the surrounding environment are two influences that have a major effect on a personís development. The study of birth order can help us to understand friends, family members and colleagues on a higher level. The position of a sibling does not influence an individualís personality alone. There are several other factors such as: gender, years between other siblings, parents and the type of environment the child was raised in. We plan to prove that birth order does have an effect on personality. But the surrounding environment has a profound impact upon the individual as well. Through research we intend to support the general stereotypes created by theorists with regards to each birth group.

II. Relativity & Relevance

The majority of the research that we have come across is rather outdated. This has made researching rather difficult. According to most authors, a lot of research results have been universally reported the same findings. There are general characterizations that exist for each birth category. Taking into consideration the minor variations they all hold true. One other factor that can throw off the results is the "Double Dipping Rule" as we will call it. The "Double Dipping Rule" is an idea that we have contrived on our own, based upon the knowledge of the three major theorists referenced in our project. This idea allows certain specified offspring to draw characteristics from multiple categories. For example, if a daughter is born second to a male, not only could she have second child characteristics but also first child characteristics because she is the first female of the family. We have narrowed our research to include only what we have deduced to be the major theorists, Toman, Sulloway, and Forer.

Walter Tomanís book Family Constellation, Itís Effects on Personality and Social Behavior is useful to our project. This book is one of the more recent references we have access to. It analyzes influencing factors as it relates to marriage, friendship and the role of gender as well as the theory of birth spacing being another factor.

"Frank Sulloway, author of the book, Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives, and a scholar of birth order studies for over two decades, believes that birth order is one of the most powerful influences in the way that individuals react to the world. Sulloway contends that birth order fosters distinctive personality traits across families of different economic, social and ethic backgrounds. Beyond providing common themes between families, Sulloway suggests that birth order is also a good indicator to how a person accepts or rebels against the standards of society."

Another author, L.K. Forer, discusses in her book, Birth Orders and Life Roles, similar ideas of those proposed by Toman and Sulloway. Such agreements include how first borns tend to be higher achievers and other such characteristics of those listed above. Forer goes on to say that these roles are also variable in many ways. Each position can have different characteristics that are dependent upon gender of the individual, gender of the other siblings, and the environment from which they grow up in.

Birth orders application to the real world plays a significant role in properly matching professions and personal relationships as those factors relate to personality. Researchers have found that the middle children tend to be great politicians. Knowing this, do parents tend to favor middle children in hopes of producing a famous politician? On a more general note, are parentsí attitudes towards their offspring influenced by this theory?

In doing this research we hope to confirm previous results. With this newfound data, connections between birth order and personality can be made. Perhaps it will help students see their strong and weak areas. By highlighting the strong points, it may help in choosing a career.

The theorists that we have found that have done research on this topic have consistently characterized birth order characteristics into four general categories. Each category contains unique attributes that can allude to their individual personality. The first division to the sibling classification is clearly first borns.

Characteristics of first borns:

- Goal setters
- High achievers
- Perfectionist
- Responsible
- Organized
- Rule Keepers
- Determined
- Detail People

Characteristics of the Middle Child:

- Flexible
- Diplomatic
- Peacemaker
- Generous
- Social
- Competitive

Characteristics of the last born child:

- Risk takers
- Outgoing
- Idea people
- Creative
- Humor
- Question authority

III. Materials & Methods

In order to test these findings we are preparing our own survey. The questions we hope will either support the categories above, or allow us to create our own. By asking such things as gender, position amongst siblings, age and parental composition. There are several conditional terms that we chose to leave out of this survey. The survey is short and to the point. The results are clear which make it easy in the interpretation of the surveys. We also plan on surveying a large population, especially off of western campus. We would also like to address issues of variables of step children, adoption and ghost children. If we receive enough responses from an older group of people from the business world, we hope to make such connections dealing with birth order effecting career choices. Here is a copy of the survey.

1.) Age: ___
2.) Sex: ___
3.) What is your major? ___________________
4.) How many brothers do you have? (not including step-siblings) ____________
5.) How many sisters do you have? ___________
6.) What position amongst your siblings are you? (Circle One)
First Middle Youngest Only
7.) How large (in years) is the distance between you and your siblings? ______
8.) Would you agree that the following categories accurately represent your personality traits in relation to your birth order?
First born: high achiever, responsible, rule keeper, perfectionist
Middle children: Competitive, diplomatic, peacemaker, generous, social
Youngest: Outgoing, creative, risk takers, tends to question authority
Only Child: take on leadership roles, attract followers, strive for recognition

Yes, I agree___ No, I disagree___

9.) Rate the top five characteristics listed below that are most applicable to
__ Competitive
__ Responsible
__ Attention seeker
__ Passive
__ Natural leader
__ Outgoing
__ Risk-taker
__ Creative
__ Diplomatic
__ Perfectionist

A total of seventy surveys were returned completed. It is our understanding that these surveys were filled out in all honesty and that the students answering the questions did not falsify any of the answers. Question number eight, has the potential to result in biased opinions for the way a human being views himself, and the actual perceptions made by other people can sometimes be contradictory.

Here is an estimated timeline of the ongoing project.
1/30/00 initial project proposal
1/30-2/2 research completed from library and internet
2/2/00 draft #1 completed published
2/8/00 poster presentation
3/6/00 draft #2 revised and published
4/7/00 made and edited surveys
4/12/00 started distributing surveys and collecting data
4/25/00 interpreting data, making graphs, organizing final paper
5/3/00 final project due and posted online

IV. Discussion & Conclusions

All of the research done to aid with our own study has had several overlapping ideas. Despite all of the conditions and variables the way in which birth order influences personality development is pretty cut and dry. The three main theorists that we concentrated on, have come up with similar categories for characterizing each birth order group. The results we obtained from this research project upholds the initial hypothesis proposed at the beginning of the project. Our results gave us the understanding that birth order has a direct relationship with the personality of an individual. Utilizing the data collected from approximately seventy surveys, our findings show that 77% of the females and 63% of the males surveyed agreed to the statement that the category stated in the survey accurately describes the personality traits assigned to their general birth rank. Those that disagreed felt that they closely resembled characteristics of all of the categories rather than just one. The following are the graphs created from the statistics.

In analyzing the data into these following charts, we used two types of statistical experiments. The first test is the Chi-Square test. This test is used to reject or accept the Null Hypothesis that the data is significant. When the p-value was less than 0.05 the hypothesis is rejected saying that the data between males and females are significantly different. The second test is explained one page 9.

This pie chart demonstrates the ratio of males to females surveyed for our project. The collection of this data is to give readers a better field for the gender audience. Unfortunately, there is not an even number of males and females. However, the results still help to confirm our findings. All of the graphs are divided into gender specific results for each question charted. This next pie chart illustrates the birth rank of all the females surveyed. As seen in this diagram the majority of the females are first born.

The four previous charts illustrate the responses we received to the question number 8. The question was as follows:

Would you agree that the following categories accurately represent your personality traits in relation to your birth order?

First born: high achiever, responsible, rule keeper, perfectionist
Middle children: Competitive, diplomatic, peacemaker, generous, social
Youngest: Outgoing, creative, risk takers, tends to question authority
Only Child: take on leadership roles, attract followers, strive for recognition
Yes, I agree___ No, I disagree___

After charting the responses to the question about ranking the top five characteristics that most represent the surveyorís personality we developed a new chart. This chart coincides with the findings of other researchers on birth order personality relationships. We have found however that there is a difference between male and female personality characteristics

First borns: competitive, creative, natural leader, risk-taker and responsible
Middle child: natural leader, risk-taker, responsible, competitive and creative
Youngest child: competitive, responsible, creative, perfectionist and outgoing
Only child: creative, responsible, outgoing, perfectionist and attention seeker

First borns: responsible, perfectionists, creative, natural leader and competitive
Middle child: creative, responsible, natural leader, competitive and outgoing
Youngest child: responsible, creative, perfectionist, outgoing and natural leader
Only child: natural leader, attention seeker, creative, perfectionist and outgoing

These categories seem fitting to the individual spaces based upon attention received from parents and the environmental atmosphere that they grew up in, mostly outside the home. We realize that there could be biased responses from the audience of surveyors because of the connotations behind the terms used and the ability to remain honest, but we believe these statistics make scientific sense.

The following four page are the charts to this question. In these charts, we used the Spearman Hypothesis test to analyze the data. In these charts the test compared the responses given from males against the females to see if they are independent of one another, or to say that given the males responses, can we predict the responses from the females. If the value is less than 0.05 the null hypothesis is rejected, telling the observer that there exists independence between the responses.

In females, the top five characteristics are responsible, perfectionist, creative, natural leader and competitive.
The top five male responses are competitive, creative, natural leader, risk-taker and responsible.

The top five male responses are natural leader, risk-taker, responsible, competitive, and creative.
The top five female responses are creative, responsible, natural leader, competitive, outgoing.

In females, the top five characteristics are responsible, creative, perfectionist, outgoing.
The top five male responses are competitive, responsible, creative, perfectionist, and outgoing.

In females, the top five characteristics are natural leader, attention seeker, creative, perfectionist, and outgoing.
The top five male responses are creative, responsible, outgoing, perfectionist, and attention seeker.


Forer, Lucille K. Birth Order: Life Roles. Springfield, IL: Thomas, 1969
Forer, Lucille K. The Birth Order Factor: How Personality is
Influenced By Your Place in the Family. NY: D. McKay Company,
Leman, Kevin Dr. The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You
Are. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984.
MSNBC. 1998. Birth Order.
Sulloway, Frank J. Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics
and Creative Living. NY: Pantheon Books, 1996.
Sutton-Smith, Brian, and Rosenberg, B.G. The Sibling. NY Holt Rinehart
and Winston, Inc, 1970
Toman, Walter. Family Constellation: Its effects on Personality and Social
Behavior. NY Springer Publishing Company, 1976.
Wilson, Bradford. First Child, Second Child: Your Birth Order
Profile. NY: McGraw Hill, 1981.

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