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Birth Order Personalities - The Second Child

The television dramatization goes like this:

An overbearing parent is cheering for their child in a competition and becomes extremely disappointed when the child does not win.

“But I came in second place,” the child says hopefully to the demanding parent who then replies, “Second place is just the first loser”

And that, according to the Alfred Adler birth order theory, sums up the influence for the central character trait in the second born: feeling the need to constantly compete for first place in the eyes of their parents.

The second born, who can also be categorized as a middle child, has many of the same personality traits of a middle child. For instance, they are both very independent and, with the more relaxed attitude of the parents, they may be a bit more adventurous. By not having the spotlight and the high expectations normally reserved for the first born, they are more able to express themselves freely which can be very beneficial to their overall development.

However, the difficult position of the second born is that they are the first comparison to their overachieving older sibling. This makes them more competitive and sets them apart from being just a middle child. They constantly seek to outdo their older brother or sister and to be on the winning end of the comparison. Sibling rivalry may be more intense between the first born and second born, especially if they are close in age. Second born children, especially in larger families, may be more aggressive and even a bit more rebellious.

Exceptions to the birth order theory can be made when the first born and second born are different genders. Here’s an example:

First born – daughter
Second born – son
Third born – daughter

Depending on family dynamics, the second born may be given the attention, expectations and parental support usually connected with the first born because of his male status. While the first born, who is a female, may develop traits usually associated with the second born, such as feeling the need to be more aggressive or competitive with her younger sibling in order to gain the approval of her parents.

In other family dynamics, the birth order may find the first born of one gender sharing their status with the first born of the opposite gender. Consequently, a child born later may feel a rivalry with their older sibling of the same gender. In the example above, the younger daughter (third born) may feel the need to compete with her older sister and take on characteristics of the second born. She may always be trying to keep pace with her older sister, feeling as if her parents are constantly comparing the two of them.

Other exceptions can be found in blended families but it is important to keep in mind exceptions can be found in just about every family. While there may be merit to the birth order theory, there is also skepticism which goes to the very core of the nature versus nurture argument. Nevertheless, parents may still be able to utilize the birth order premise to positively affect their children and strengthen sibling bonds. For most parents, any information, idea or theory which can potentially lead to building healthy family relationships is worth investigating. We hold to the official parental creed: “First do no harm…..but do keep an open mind.”

Birth Order information now available in the e-book Birth Order and Parenting.


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