The Strangely Fascinating Way Your Birth Order Affects Your Personality

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When you tell people you're the oldest child in your family, do they assume that you're bossy and demanding?

Psychotherapist Alfred Adler believed that our character traits and behaviors were derived primarily from development issues, particularly birth order, and these theories are still in play today (though some people believe that they're too simple and stereotypical).

How does your birth affect your personality?


More recent research suggests that other factors — such as temperament, gender, genetics, parenting, and environment — must be considered. Additional factors that should be taken into consideration, include step-siblings, half-siblings, what ages were the parents when the children were born, and how large the age gap is between siblings.

However, other research continues to support Adler's theory that birth order greatly influences personality.

RELATED: What Your Birth Order Says About Your Love Life

There are many variables to what makes you who you are — and birth order is just one of them. Our birth order personality types aren't set in stone and they change as we grow into our adult lives.


While there may be characteristics of our personalities that stay the same, we shift away from who we were as children. 

Here are some of the basic characteristics of birth order, according to Adler.

Only child

They like being the center of attention, especially since they get about 200 percent of it. They're often spoiled, so they have difficulty sharing. They also have a tendency to be a bit precocious, which turns to arrogance when they mature.

They can also be somewhat cold and expect special treatment. Famous only children include Tiger Woods (though he does have some half-siblings), Daniel Radcliffe, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Natalie Portman.

Firstborn child

They are overachievers who feel as if power is their birthright. They can be authoritarian or strict as parents and can be prone to jealousy, anxiety, and defensiveness.


Famous oldest children include Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, and Kate Middleton.

Middle child

They're known for being peacekeepers and are great at compromise. Because they're literally stuck in the middle, they're friendlier, faithful, and loyal, and they're excellent at connecting with people both older and younger than themselves.

Famous middle children include Kim Kardashian, Madonna, Bill Gates, Britney Spears, and Kristen Stewart.

RELATED: The Unexpected Way Birth Order Affects Your Weight, According To Science

Youngest child

They're known to be very different from their siblings and are rebellious, attention-seeking, and creative by nature. They have big dreams that often don't end up happening.


Famous celebrities include Jennifer Lawrence, Harry Styles, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, and George Clooney.

Adopted child

They tend to be spoiled, which can make them very demanding. They also struggle with self-identity, control, and self-esteem issues. They're sometimes thought of as lonely, but really just enjoy their own company.

Famous adoptees include Jamie Foxx, Steve Jobs, Nicole Richie, and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.


Your perceived niche in your family plays a larger role in influencing the adult you've become than the actual timing of your birth does.

Maybe you're a second child, who acts like the oldest child because you helped raise your younger siblings or you might be so much younger than all your brothers and sisters that you felt like an only child.

RELATED: What You're Like In A Relationship, Based On Your Birth Order

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website.