The Brutally Honest Way Your Birth Order Affects Your Relationships

Oldest, middle, younger, or only child, birth order affects your attachment.

How birth order affects your relationships BrankoPhoto, max-kegfire, Viktor Gladkov | Canva

If you are as lucky as I am, you have been fortunate to have siblings who enhanced your life. Originally I was one of three. With my father's remarriage, I became one of four.

Despite our birth order, I could not imagine my life without any of them. That would feel imbalanced. We've had disagreements over the years. The distance, both emotionally and physically, along with life changes, has affected our relationships. Surprisingly, we have also experienced great conversations, joyous holidays, and shared interests, all within the confines of an intimacy that exists within sibling relationships. The descriptions below are by no means exhaustive and offer just a brief overview of the main players in families.


RELATED: How the First Relationships You Observed As A Child Shape Your Life As An Adult

Here's how birth order affects your relationships:

1. Oldest sibling

Firstborns often model parents' behavior. They like taking charge and have oodles of confidence, says Kevin Leman, PhD, author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.

Adults take them seriously, and that boosts their confidence. When parents gush over every firstborn, it motivates the oldest children to achieve. They can easily become perfectionists. They also may have trouble admitting when they're wrong.


First-time parents can be overprotective and tentative while at the same time strict and demanding. This can translate to kids that overachieve.

2. Middle sibling

The second-born will seek out a role that's completely the opposite of the first-born. Their personalities emerge in response to how they perceive the next-oldest sibling in the family.

Middle-borns are the most willing to wheel and deal. They are negotiators. They remain agreeable, more relaxed attitude, and compromise. They handle disappointment well and have realistic expectations.

They are the least likely to be spoiled and tend to be the most independent. They will go along with most people but often feel left out and neglected.


3. Youngest sibling

Parents tend to let things slide once the last child comes along. Lastborns usually do get away with more than their siblings do. They shoulder less responsibility, so are more likely to be carefree, easygoing, fun-loving, affectionate, sociable, and make people laugh.

Does the youngest in your family assume the role of class clown? Lastborns will often become more rebellious and might be spoiled and manipulative.

Father palys with three children whose birth order affects their relationships Olesia Bilkei via Shutterstock


4. Only children

They are often self-entertainers and often the most creative because they spend so much time alone. They are confident, pay considerable attention to detail, and tend to do well in school. They may develop a self-centered streak because they are used to feeling important.

They may have a difficult time when things don't go their way. They are even more susceptible to perfectionism than firstborns. Many older children also act a lot like firstborns — responsible and mature.

RELATED: The Strangely Fascinating Way Your Birth Order Affects Your Personality

My relationship with each of my siblings has changed and evolved over the years. We have become closer and stay more connected now than we previously did. I see that as a result of desire, the many ways to stay in touch, age, perspective, and our parents getting older.


What is it about sibling relationships? Siblings validate our history. They help tell our story. They are an important part of our narrative. Although each one often has a different reaction to the same life experience or event, it doesn't matter. Siblings reminisce and digress in their special way.

Conversations about a family event can start anywhere — the beginning, the middle, it doesn’t matter. We know. They fill in the blanks. They make sense of things that sometimes we cannot. They validate our feelings. They get us. They hold us accountable. They are often more forgiving. They keep us honest and can get away with being more honest with each other than with other people in our lives.

Adult sisters birth order affects their relationship with their mother via Shutterstock


Somehow, we tolerate that. Yet, despite all the good, the truth is, that not everyone has or has had a positive relationship with their siblings. They are estranged. Distant.

Past family squabbles have left a rift, a divide many cannot repair. Some people "love" their siblings but do not "like" them and wouldn't want to be friends with them outside of their family structure. They feel "stuck" with their siblings.

There is a sadness to that, but, like other relationships, some sibling relationships are unsalvageable. An even sadder circumstance? The death of a sibling changes the family structure in profound ways and has lasting effects on the sibling(s) that remain.

RELATED: How Losing My Sibling Meant Losing A Part Of Myself


How does birth order affect your sibling bond?

Most people remain curious about their birth order. They want to know what, if anything, their birth order means and how it affects their family structure and their relationships with their siblings.

Here are a few sibling facts, according to Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds of Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us:

  • Conflict with parents can bring siblings closer. When parents are no longer with you, it's the siblings who become the glue. Siblings tell the stories to the next generation. They encompass our past, present, and our future.
  • Your step-siblings can become as close as your biological siblings. Until then, it's all about competition.
  • Middle children get less in terms of parental attention. Being the middle kid, I can relate to this. My father still refers to me as a "middle kid."
  • Youngest siblings are the smartest.
  • Men with sisters are better at talking to girls.

Many variables affect relationships with siblings — the number of years between siblings, the number of siblings, and the gender of each sibling, among others. Each sibling has a unique personality, temperament, struggles, and challenges that affect their relationships.


Your relationship with your sibling(s) will always exist along a continuum over a person's lifespan. They will continue to change and evolve.

RELATED: A Simple Reminder to Give Your Sibling A Hug

Dr. Kristin Davin is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in marriage, divorce, dating, and relationships. She helps people build better relationships, whether it’s with their spouse, partner, children, siblings, parents, coworkers, or friends.