I’m a middle child but I think I act more like the oldest child. Bossy, authoritative, I like to be in charge. Probably because I’m the only girl. My husband is an oldest child but because he spent his twenties and most of his thirties in a band touring the world he acts more like a youngest child. I think that’s why our relationship works so well.
It’s no surprise that the order of your birth affects your personality but according to psychologist and author Kevin Leman, Ph.D, understanding birth order will help you understand how you operate in every kind of relationship and why. In short, understanding your birth order is a life saver, he says. Not only can you work out your own personality, but it may give key insight into why your children act the way they do.
Traditionally, oldest children are natural leaders. It’s no coincidence that most U.S. Presidents were first-borns. Older children are take-charge people. They aren’t the kind of people to drive friends and spouses crazy because of their indecision over where to eat, what to order. They’ll likely already have reservations. “Oldest kids are planners,” says Dr. Leman. Older children aren’t usually spontaneous and “hate surprises”
Best match: The youngest child. “It’s a case of opposites attracting,” says Dr. Leman. “You help the last-born be more organized, and the last-born helps you lighten up.”
Contrary to the bad reputation as insecure losers Jan Brady has given them, middle kids actually make stable and loyal partners. They aren’t spoiled, Dr. Leman says. They likely grew up getting less attention and that makes middle children work harder at everything, including relationships. Dr. Leman notes they’ll be more willing to compromise and negotiate, which obviously makes for a healthy relationship. Middles hate conflict, often trying to put others at ease. Middle children can be very secretive,” says Dr. Leman. “They got hammered by the first-born and swindled by the baby, so they keep their cards close to their chests.” They also aren’t the best communicators when upset and should learn to speak up instead of holding in anger.
Best match: Youngest child. “Middles aren’t as threatened by last-borns as they are by exacting first-borns,” says Dr. Leman, so the odds are good for open communication.
Youngest children are typically all about fun. They’re the most outgoing of all in the birth order spectrum and love to have a good time, maybe because their parents had mellowed out by the time they came along. In fact, “most famous comedians are youngest children,” says Dr. Leman. The list includes Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy.
Young children are spontaneous and love to do the unexpected. But “babies are the least financially dependable,” warns Dr. Leman (it comes from being, well, taken care of all their life). That means a date may be stuck picking up the tab when the youngest child’s credit card is maxed out. Also, some youngest children use that last-born charm and charisma to be a bit manipulative, says Dr. Leman.
Best match: Either the oldest child (they serve as a good counterbalance in a parent-child sort of way) or middle child (they value friendships, so they totally understand why you love being the life of the party).
Only children are solid citizens. “Only children are super-reliable,” Dr. Leman says. “They’re like oldest children taken to the extreme.” Growing up with only adults makes an older child more grown-up early on. They’re serious and dependable, often going the extra mile to help out a friend. Only children are usually punctual and tend toward perfectionism. Dr. Leman says only children can be so cautious and pragmatic that they can be very slow to act.
Best match: Youngest child, because you balance each other out. The baby of the family adds spontaneity and romance, while you make sure you two aren’t dining by candlelight because the electric bill never got paid.
My oldest daughter Violet is already showing oldest child tendencies around my newborn, Henry. She’s bossy and likes to take charge of all situations. Definitely my kind of gal. I also like having a daughter older than my boy. If the birth order theory holds true, then my Henry will be a sweet, fun guy. Unless I have another baby and Henry is the middle man. But Violet will always be older than him, which is good. I’ve definitely noticed guys who have older sisters tend to be sweeter and more understanding with girls than those that don’t. A boy needs an older sister to whip him into shape, right?
What order do you fall in? What about your spouse? Do you agree with Dr. Leman’s theories?