7 Ways Being The First Child Affects You Later In Life, For Better Or For Worse
Almost all of the astronauts who went into space were all the eldest children or eldest sons. Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton are all eldest siblings. There is a strong correlation between firstborns and high achievement and there are many ways being the first child affects you in life, especially as an adult, that you might appreciate knowing if you're one yourself.
Being the eldest child means that you took your family through the drastic transition of going from an adult-centric household to child-centric one. The result? All the parental attention went to that first child: you. Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist studied birth order in such depth in the early 20th century that he developed Adlerian Theory, a strong and specific view of birth order. According to Bernhard H. Shulman and Harold H. Mosak, two researchers who studied Adler's work, "Birth order is not an absolute determinant, only an influence. The reaction of the parents to the child is at least as important."
Jumping off of that, Shulman and Mosak also noted, "Children of the same family are not born into the same environment. The second child is born into a different psychological situation than the first." Well, duh. There's a reason why parents are notoriously lackadaisical when rearing second (and subsequent) children after the first. In general, new parents are on high-alert with baby number one because everything is foreign to them, but when baby number two rolls around, they're more like: I got this.
Parents were found to spend 3,000 hours more with their first born children than with subsequent children, according to a study included in the Journal of Human Resources that was conducted by economics professor Joseph Price of Brigham Young University. This quality time in turn seemingly affects children later in life in many ways, several of which are outlined below. Keep reading to learn how being the first child can have an affect on you in the long run.
As the eldest sibling of three, I can tell you that some of these traits ring true to me, and some don't. At time I'm so organized that my lists have lists, but I'll also fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to having company over or planning a party. Of course it is also important to note that there are exceptions to every rule, so don't feel pressured if you yourself or your kids are not defined by these characteristics.
1. You Are Highly Organized
As the oldest child, you are often responsible not just for yourself, but for your younger siblings and you learn early on that this is best accomplished by being highly organized. Later in life, you are not the type to "wing it," preferring lists to work with and planning and preparing for events well in advance. According to Best Health Magazine, firstborns typically choose careers like law, medicine, accounting, and education.
2. You Are Critical And Competitive
Because parents have high expectations for their firstborns, those children (who later become adults) transfer those expectations onto others. Psychologist Frank J. Sulloway writes extensively on personality traits and birth order, and found that given ongoing sibling competition, older siblings often want to dominate their younger siblings.
3. You're Probably Taller Than Your Siblings
Believe it or not, the odds are good that older siblings will be taller than their younger ones when fully grown, and that height decreases as you go down the birth order. Researchers in New Zealand found this to be the case when they studied siblings and compared their growth.
4. You Are A Perfectionist
Firstborns continually strive for their work to be perfect. Because they showed up first, their parents likely watched them much more closely than subsequent children. Expectations are set very high and attention is on them to not just succeed, but to succeed in a big way. To do that, everything needs to be perfect.
5. You Are More Likely To Be A Boss B*tch
In a study conducted by Career Builder, firstborns were found to be more likely to be high level executives and bring in six figure incomes. A Norwegian study found firstborns to score as much as three IQ points higher on IQ tests than their younger siblings. According to She Knows, this can translate into getting into better schools and getting higher paying jobs.
6. You Are Less Trusting
Firstborns are also less reciprocating and less cooperative. French researchers set out to prove this by playing an investment game. They "found that for player A (investor), the firstborns were less trusting than later-borns, and sent 25 [percent] less money to the banker. Firstborns who played the banker also reciprocated less, returning 22-29 [percent] less to player A."
7. You Are Well-Educated
Firstborns are 16 percent more likely than their younger siblings to finish their higher education, according to a British study in 2014. Some of this could be explained by the confluence theory, which says that a child is influenced by the intellectual atmosphere that surrounds her and that with each subsequent child, intelligence and attention get diluted. Psychologist Frank Sulloway, of he University of California posited that each additional child causes the siblings to compete for their parents' attention. Since the oldest is first and more competent than their younger siblings, they develop their skills at a more ambitious pace.
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