I was born the second son and older brother to my sisters, fraternal twins, who are two years younger than I, in a family of four children. Sometimes I wonder if my life would have been different as the oldest, the youngest or even as an only child, which, on occasion, I would have preferred. The latter would have been my preference during this recent school break at home as I just needed to sleep, have some quiet time and get school work done. It is hard to meet any of those needs with my family of 6 people. There is always someone in the bathroom when you want to use it, someone playing the television or talking too loudly, specifically when I am on the verge of thinking of a great blog idea!
My parents have referred to me as the middle child, even though there are four of us, because my younger sisters are twins. In terms of birth order, I am in the middle so I can understand the categorization. I came across the chart below and started thinking about my personality and that of my siblings. While each of us resemble the descriptions for our birth order, any one of us can check off certain characteristics in the other categories as well. That led me to my hypothesis; Birth order doesn’t drive personality traits since we are all individuals with different likes, needs and desires.
Picture source: http://healthyfoodquotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/How-Your-Birth-Order-Shapes-Your-Personality.jpg
A study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, used a compilation of data for approximately 20,000 subjects representing people from Germany (10,457), America (5,240), and Great Britain (4,489). Given the size of the sample, the results were considered statistically significant. The analysis assessed the subjects in the same families and between different families. It evaluated the subjects with specific assessment for what are considered the big five personality traits:
- Openness – being imaginative and willing to try new experiences
- Conscientiousness – being reliable, organized, methodical and a planner.
- Extraversion – being energetic, talkative, assertive.
- Agreeableness – being friendly, kind, sympathetic and compassionate.
- Neuroticism – emotionally unstable, moody, tense, worrier.
Confounding variables considered in this study included; family size (family size of more than 4 siblings were excluded), age disparity of siblings, socioeconomic status and genetic susceptibility.
This study was conducted to determine if birth order defines the direction a person takes in life. It described and refuted the early studies that originated the birth order theory. Francis Galton conducted a narrow study of first-borns in 1874, concluding parental favoritism drove intellectual superiority. Alfred Adler defined the birth order theory in the early 1900s, suggesting that personality is influenced by such order. Finally, the Family Niche Theory, produced by Frank Sulloway, in 1996, was reviewed but dismissed because of the limited sampling of only one sibling per family and a subject self-rating model of themselves and their own siblings.
The research conducted for the study was independent, robust and thorough. It reflected consistent, proven results of broad analyses and data. It claims to have achieved a power of 95%, which translates to a mere 5% potential impact on our lives, driven by birth order. I believe that this topic fits the framework of correlation does not imply causation topic that Andrew shared in class.
This credible and statistically significant study determined that, intellect aside, there is no lasting effect on the big five personality traits, because of birth order. I must admit that the data presented was a bit intimidating to dissect, but after reading through it a couple of times, I think it makes logical sense. In my research, I came across this personality test. It is free and claims to be reliable. It might be an interesting test to do with family members over the winter break!
Study: Examining the effects of birth order on personality: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/46/14224.full
The Big Five Factors: