Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
Home |
The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
WILSON, J. B. (2003). Birth Order and Personality Characteristics. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved October 3, 2022 .

Birth Order and Personality Characteristics
Missouri Western State University PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)

Much research has been done in the past regarding birth order’s effects on personality characteristics. A vast majority of the results point to the idea that one’s birth position into a family does influence the development of personality characteristics. The purpose of this study is to support this idea and the previous research done in this area. A survey was given to randomly selected college students regarding their own family structure and their opinion of what characteristics can be applied to each of the three birth positions, and whether or not these traits apply to themselves in their given position.

Birth Order and Personality Characteristics

Much research has been done in the past questioning whether or not the birth order of a child into a family can have direct effects on personality characteristics. A majority of the studies conducted have shown that one’s birth position does in fact influence certain personality characteristics in people. Some of the more common traits often examined were creativity, independence, intelligence, competitiveness, and whether or not one tended to be outgoing or shy. Research completed looks at first-borns (only children are classified here), middle-borns, and later born individuals. According to Romeo (1994) a child’s position in the family greatly determines their personality characteristics. “The influence of the family constellation is so strong that the lifestyles of the youngest children of two different families are more similar than those of the youngest and middle child of the same family.” Travis and Kohli (1995) support the birth order theory by mentioning that intellectual destiny is influenced by the sibling situation into which one is born. Birth order theorist Morales (1994) believes that a child’s position in the family greatly influences their personality characteristics, which in turn has an effect on their behavior in and outside of the home. Morales further shows in his studies that first-borns are given more power and responsibility, therefore becoming confident, possessing higher self-esteem. Older siblings also have more opportunities to teach and tutor younger children, encouraging leadership and intelligence. School psychologists Zajonc and Markus (as cited in Bianchi and Robinson, 1997) found birth position to be inversely related to achievement, theorizing that additional children lower the intellectual stimulation in the family. Much literature supports the view that a great number of individuals who achieve eminence or have high IQ’s are first-born children. Birth order is not just a superficial characteristic, but one that can shape families into behaving certain ways and commit family resources to a particular child (Olszewski-Kubilius, 2000). This author supports the idea that birth order influences not only intelligence, but creativity and preference for complexity as well. By completing the following study, I will attempt to support previous studies that indicate birth order has an impact on the development of personality characteristics.

MethodParticipants Random college students of varying ages, both male and female, were participants in this study. There were a total of 50 students surveyed.

Materials A paper and pencil survey regarding birth order characteristics was given to participants.


Participants were asked to list five characteristics describing each of the three birth order positions: first, middle, and last. The participants were then asked to rate the characteristic as a positive or negative trait, and whether or not the traits listed applied to themselves in their respective birth order position


After completing the proposed study, I found that the participant’s results supported past studies regarding birth order position and the characteristics associated with each. Overall, more positive traits were assigned to the oldest/only position with middle being next and the youngest receiving the least amount of favorable characteristics. When asked whether or not the characteristics listed for one’s own birth position described them, over 50% (28 of 50) of the respondents agreed that they did. The top five negative traits attributed to the oldest/only position were: spoiled, lonely, bossy, receives all the attention, and sheltered. The top five positive traits attributed to the same position were: mature, independent, intelligent, favorite child, and a leader. The most popular five negative characteristics regarding the middle child were: attention seeking, overlooked, average, lonely, and disobedient. The most commonly listed positive traits: carefree, humorous, easy going, friendly, and sensitive. For the youngest birth position, the most mentioned negative traits were: lazy, immature, attention seeking, irresponsible, and disobedient. Positive traits most frequently listed were: happy, caring, friendly, sensitive, and humorous. Several characteristics named for the middle and youngest positions overlapped, such as humorous, sensitive, attention seeking, and disobedient.

Discussion In order to have obtained more convincing results, I should have surveyed a much larger population. Future research could focus on between family studies rather than across the board studies; a great amount of the research done to date has been on comparisons between unrelated people.


Bianchi, S. & Robinson, J. (1997). What Did You Do Today? Children’s Use of Time, Family Composition, and the Use of Social Capital. Journal of Marriage and Family 59, 332-345.

Morales, C. (1994). Birth Order Theory: A Case for Cooperative Learning. Journal of Instructional Psychology 21, 246-250.

Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2000). The Transition From Childhood Giftedness to Adult Creative Productiveness: Psychological… Roeper Review 23, 65-72.

Romeo, F. (1994). A Child’s Birth Order: Educational Implications. Journal of Instructional Psychology 21, 155-161.

Travis, R. & Kohli, V. (1995). The Birth Order Factor: Ordinal Position, Social Strata, and Educational Achievement. Journal of Social Psychology 135, 499-508.

Submitted 12/4/2003 9:05:25 PM
Last Edited 12/4/2003 9:12:00 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

Rated by 1 users. Average Rating:
Users who logon can rate manuscripts and write reviews.

© 2022 National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. All rights reserved. The National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse is not responsible for the content posted on this site. If you discover material that violates copyright law, please notify the administrator. This site receives money through the Google AdSense program when users are directed to useful commercial sites. We do not encourage or condone clicking on the displayed ads unless you have a legitimate interest in the advertisement.