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An Overview of Birth Order Theory

written by: DulceCorazon•edited by: Emma Lloyd•updated: 6/28/2010

The order of birth of a person in relation to his other siblings is said to influence his personality, beliefs, outlook and overall well-being. One such theory that explains these observations is the birth order theory of Alfred Adler.

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    What is Birth Order Theory?

    The order of birth is the child's position in the family in relation to his other siblings. It is said that the position of the child in the family greatly contribute to his personality, views, behavior and general well-being.

    One such study is the birth order theorywhich was pioneered by Alfred Adler, a philosopher and a psychiatrist. Adler considered that the order of birth can greatly affect a person's personality, outlooks and beliefs. He also believed that the position in the family can foresee what would become of that person. The general health of the child is also sometimes associated with the order of his birth. For example, the first born is often subjected to complete vaccinations compared to the second or third child. There are also various intellectual and behavioral differences that occur in children as influenced by the order of their birth.

    According to Adler's birth order theory, there are 4 basic types of positions. These include the oldest child, middle child, youngest child and the only child. The oldest child is often authoritative and at times act as the second parents to the younger siblings. The middle child is the even-tempered one. Most of the time, they are the happy-go-lucky individuals and most of the time, they are trying to fit “in” in the family. The youngest child is the baby of the family and they are often spoiled not only by the parents but also by the siblings. The only child enjoys the full attention they receive from everyone.

    The contribution of Adler in the field of psychology is considered important and even today, it is still used in different studies.

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    How is Birth Order Theory Related to Genetics?

    Throughout history, the birth order theory has been affecting the different positions of the political, social and economical life of an individual. To date, favoritism of parents is still thought to be linked to the birth order of the children. Because of the controversies with regard to birth order theory, it was not exempted from the query minds of the geneticists.

    In a study carried out by several behavioral geneticists, it showed that siblings are different even if they are of similar ages and grow up almost together in their lifetime. They came up with the conclusion that only 5% of the differences in the sibling’s personality are in line with the common family environment or growing up under one roof. Their studies also showed that around 40% of these differences may originate from the genetic makeup of the individual, and 35% are results of different personal experiences. The remaining 20% was attributed to errors in the measurement of data.

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