Birth order and demographics... Are they related to your personality?

This topic submitted by Kristen Antos, Nick Burns, Lindsey Sabo, and Nicky Ziomek (antoskm@excite.com) at 10:03 pm on 12/10/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, August 9, 2000. Section: Cummins

I. Abstract
Our initial question was: how does birth order affect personality? Many studies and opinions have been formulated from this topic. A number of these have come to the conclusion that birth order is the sole predictor for oneís displayed personality. However, birth order studies do not provide a complete picture of the reasons for the development of personality characteristics. There are many other factors that contribute to the formation of a personality; one such factor is the demographic area (urban, suburban, and rural) in which an individual is raised. Through our expermentation, we found the results of our hypothesis to be inconclusive. We believe that this result was received because personality is affected by many different factors, not only demographics.

II. Introduction
Birth order is an interesting phenomenon that attempts to explain how a child achieves the personality characteristics that he or she exhibits. For years, the significance of an individualís birth order has been subject to many enthusiastic debates, discussions, and research in sociology as well as other disciplines, but the difficulty of this discipline is that it is scientifically difficult to determine and support. There are no concrete numbers involved. Instead, one must examine the complex human personality with words and observations. Still there is a lot to be discovered from these investigations. One study, Frank Sullowayís Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives (1996), used quantitative, historical data, to find that ìbirth order is a better predictor of social attitudes than is gender, class, or race" (Freese, 207). He even goes so far as to support his idea with the example that "the single best predictor of whether eminent individuals converted to Protestantism or remained Catholic during the reformation" (Freese, 211). Sullowayís theories stem from his belief that birth order is an essential component to comprehending ideological variations. Sulloway draws characteristics that personify the characteristics of first, second, and third-borns in his novel. For example, some of the generalizations that Sulloway contends about first-borns in his novel are that they more intelligent, dependable, and conservative. They try to emulate their parents by associating with rules and authority, and the experience of having their parentsí complete focus "stolen" from them at the conception of the next sibling causes a definite drive for power.
Sullowayís ideas are not the only ones in the field of course. Other scientists have drawn conclusions that go so far as to say that birth order can be used to foretell almost any perspective of an individualís life including his or her types of friends, philosophy, type of person he or she will marry, and even how he or she will perform in the workplace.
Over the years studies have developed some stereotypical characteristics of each of the roles of the child in the family. The first born child is viewed as dominant-aggressive, a quality that reflects strength. They are seen to be independent, goal setters, high achievers, perfectionists, responsible, organized, rule keepers, determined, and detailed people. First-born children are also frequently seen in leadership roles.
The second or middle child usually has characteristics such as flexible, diplomatic, peacemaker, generous, social, and competitive. The origins of these characteristics stem from the fact that the second child constantly feels the need to 'catch up' or 'out do' the older sibling.
Finally, the characteristics of the third child are as the risk taker, outgoing, an idea person, creative, humorous, and a questioning of authority. Picked on by the second child, the third usually feels a sense of vulnerability, as if anyone could hurt him or her. It is him or her against the world. These are just some of the generalizations that have evolved from a plethora of personality and birth order studies.
Not everyone shares the same ideas about birth order studies. There are conflicting ideas on the subject (including our idea) that state birth order is only one of the many factors that together determine a personís characteristics, while others contest that birth order is the main component. We contend that a variety of influences outside of the family and specific birth order roles, contribute to individual differences in personality. Our hypothesis departs from the Sullowayís traditional family order model in that we feel that oneís demographic location while developing from ages two-ten is an important variable that factors in on a personís personality. Furthermore, we feel that dominance and aggressiveness, or lack there of, is not solely a factor of birth order, but a result of oneís demographic origin. Children who were raised from the age of two to ten in an urban setting will exhibit the characteristics of a first born child. Those born and raised in a suburban setting will most often have the characteristics of a second born child, while those from a rural setting will manifest those characteristics of the third child. Because of the lack of conclusive research focused on determining the personality characteristics of fourth, fifth and sixth born, we will not be involving them in our study. Only children will not be included because they are considered special cases. They do not have siblings with whom to interact, and they do not have the opportunity to compete with younger/other siblings for parental attention (Eischens, 3).
The topic of birth order is a large area of interest today because it is universal. Thus, it is universally appropriate because everyone has been a child. Examining physical birth order and living demographics gets us one step closer to answering the questions of "Who am I?" and "Where do I fit in?" and how this is relevant to the rest of society.

III. Materials and Methods
The materials that we used were:
*65 people... These people were made up of the students and the professor (Chris Myers!!) of our Natural Systems class as well as random students around Miamiís campus.
*Stat View computer program to create graphs and organize data
*Raw Random Model method
* A personality survey... In order to test our hypothesis, we devised a survey that asked a series of 12 questions. The first nine questions were all derived from information and birth order inventories we found in our research. This is the survey that we comprised:

For your pleasure: A fun lilí Survey!
Please circle one for your answer:
1). Do you like difficult challenges? Yes or No
2). Do you avoid doing things that scare you? Yes or No
3). Are you careful not to offend others? Yes or No
4). Are you afraid people can put you down at their own discretion? Yes or No
5). Do you make a conscious effort to prove your high level of maturity? Yes or No
6). Is it important for you to seem emotionally strong/stable? Yes or No
7). Do you try to keep busy to prevent boredom? Yes or No
8). Do you enjoy a slow-paced day? Yes or No
9). Are you a decision maker? Yes or No
10). Are you a first, second, third, or other born?
11). Are you Male or Female?
12). Where did you live for the majority or your life between the ages of 2-10? Urban, suburban, or rural?

Question 3, 5, and 9 are all questions that relate to the first born. First borns often have the fear they may offend others by their actions or words. ìWhen the second child arrives, the first usually becomes jealous and the stage is set for the firstborn to utilize any method of dominance which seems to offer successful competition with the new arrivalî (Forer, 25). Proving their maturity is just the way to do this. Because they are the oldest child in the family, their parents frequently place the highest level of responsibility on them. They deal with competing with younger siblings for the attention of their parents by not only accepting the responsibilities they are given but also handling them with the utmost maturity, more than their parents would expect.
Question 2, 6, and 8 are second born questions. Second borns avoid doing things that scare them because they like to have a sense of control over their lives. Also, as a child, the older sibling serves as a guardian to the second child from situations that might cause fear in the younger child. In the same respect, it is important for them to feel emotionally stable and/or strong. This also displays the need to have a sense of control as well as self-discipline. Finally, second borns are procrastinators. Therefore, they enjoy a slow-paced day because they like to put work and strenuous events off so they can relax and enjoy themselves.
Questions 1, 4, and 7 are directly related to the third born. Third borns feel like they always need to catch up to their older siblings, and in order to accomplish this, they will have to face difficult challenges. A characteristic of the third born is vulnerability, and therefore, they are afraid others can put them down at their own discretion. This is because they feel that they are not as advanced as the older siblings. They try to keep busy to prevent boredom in a constant effort to catch up to the older siblings.
We used charts and graphs as a method of interpreting and analyzing our data. Before doing this it was necessary for us to make raw random models. The reason for this because in order to correctly analyze our data, we needed to be able to see how the apparent birth order changed from the actual birth order according to demographic origin. The model was calculated by figuring the number of first borns living in the urban setting. Our hope was to find a number of survey participants answering yes to questions we felt were appropriate for first borns, leading us to believe that they were indeed first borns. We figured that one third of all surveys would show that their birth order would stay the same for actual first and second born. We also believe that two-thirds of the total first born urban residents would test as second born and zero would test as third born. We used the same method on first born from rural and suburban settings. For actual second born tests, we believe one third would test as if they were first born and one third as third borns. Again, we used the same theory for rural and suburban second born surveys. For third born, we believed zero would test as second born, one third would stay the same and two thirds would test as first born. It must be said that the ratios of numbers were the main factor we were working towards. In certain cases, ratios were increased so that the math would be large enough to comprehend. Here is the actual numbers we used for the Raw Random Model method:
Raw Random Model

In a random sampling, one would expect each of the following:

Birth order Ratio of same Ratio of plus Ratio of minus
1 1/3 2/3 0
2 1/3 1/3 1/3
3 1/3 0 2/3

The numbers in the parentheses in the next table were calculated by taking the actual number of each (for example, we surveyed 12 urban first borns) and calculating how many would be expected in a random sampling to stay the same, go plus, or go minus. The numbers in the parentheses do not have to add up to the total number before it, but they just have to be in the correct ratio.

Birth order URBAN SUBURBAN RURAL
Total # S + - Total # S + - Total # S + -
1 12 (4 8 0) 18 (6 12 0) 3 (1 2 0)
2 3 (1 1 1) 9 (3 3 3) 5 (5 5 5)
3 2 (2 0 4) 6 (2 0 4) 5 (5 0 10)
7 9 5 11 15 7 11 7 15

IV. Results
Table 1 is a paired comparison, analyzing apparent birth order and actual birth order. This is a comparison between what the subjectís actual birth order is and what they tested to be in our experiment. This graph exhibits that variation did occur between peopleís apparent and actual birth order.
Table 2 is a means table for apparent birth order and demographics. This table shows what the average apparent birth order was for each of the demographic regions as tested. For urbans, the average apparent birth order was 1.824, suburbans was 1.943, and rurals was 2.308.
Chart 3 is a bar graph comparison between apparent birth order, actual birth order , and demographics. Upon first glance, it appears that our hypothesis might have some significant nuances to it. In the apparent birth order section of the chart even though the numbers did not match exactly, the mean birth order for urbans was the lowest (closest to first born), suburbanís was in the middle (closest to second born), and ruralís was the highest (closest to third born). But, when you look at the levels in the actual birth order section of the graph, these results also appear, even though there is some variation. This may actually mean that we really just tested mostly first borns for urbans, and the people we tested for rural were mostly third borns to begin with.
Table 4 is a comparison between the demographic region of origin and the amounts of plus/minus/same. The plus/minus/same category is just describing whether was a change between the actual and the apparent birth orders. If the apparent birth order went towards the third birth order, then that data set received a plus. Likewise, if it went towards the first birth order, it received a minus. If there was no change, then it was marked same. This chart tells us that the P-value is .4774, which means that the data for this is rather inconclusive.
Table 5 shows the fluctuations of apparent and actual birth order organized by demographics.
Table-group 6 is concerned only with urbans. Using the Raw Random Model method devised by Chris Myers, Kristen Antos, and Lindsey Sabo, we compared the results we received for urbans with what would have been expected if the results were completely random (also meaning regardless of whether or not demographics plays a role in apparent birth order). In order to gain any insight into the validity of our hypothesis, one must compare the observed frequencies and expected values. Here, the p-value is .1095, causing to again, reject the null hypothesis. But, there is some variation between what is observed and what is expected. To interpret these graphs, one must understand that if the observed frequencies for urban are close in value to the expected, then it could be said that birth order would be the determining factor of personality. But, on the other hand, if there is a significant difference between the observed and the expected values then we can conclude that demographics is possibly playing a large role in determining oneís personality. For urban, in order for our hypothesis to work, we would anticipate most to show up as plus. But, this did not work because it actually showed that more of our survey participants went towards minus (we had 6 minus while only 2 plus).
Table-group 7 is exclusively focused on suburbans. The same Raw Random Model method was used to create these tables. Also, the same method of interpretation is used as table-group 6. Here the p-value was .0074. This is a good value and we would be able to accept the null hypothesis. When comparing the observed frequencies and expected values it shows that there is a significant change in the numbers.
Table-group 8 focuses only on rural inhabitants. Again, we used the same Raw Random Model method and same method of interpretation except here we would expect the values to have more minus. The p-value was calculated to be .7867. This is not a good number. There is not much deviation between the observed and expected values. This means that the results we received could basically be justified by random occurrence.


V. Conclusions
We determined that our experimental results were inconclusive. One of the reasons for this might be the amount of students surveyed. In passing out seventy surveys, we received a larger number of responses from people from suburban settings. If we were to continue from where we left off, our group would make sure to receive more surveys from all, especially rural and urban. Besides increasing the amount of surveys, we would also make sure to survey the same number of people from the same birth order and demographic region.
Another reason that our results were inconclusive is because many factors influence personality. As stated in our introduction, a childís personality can be influenced by the way a parent raises the child, peers in school, and siblings. Demographics may only be a small, undetectable influence on a personís personality.
Further investigation for the future could include a focus on gender and its impact on birth order along with demographics. Also, we could try to explore other possibilities of things that could affect personality.


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