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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Birth Order May Affect Personality, Lifestyle

LAS CRUCES -- Research shows that firstborn children can be high achievers, well-educated and sometimes perfectionists, which could leave second-born children trying to live up to those standards, said a New Mexico State University family life specialist.

"Birth order may affect how you see life and how people treat you, your personality, how you turn out," said Diana DelCampo with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Birth order might have a lot of influence on the profession you choose, and how you interact with your family."

"Second-born children usually feel that they have to try harder, particularly if there's only a couple of years between you as a second-born and your first-born brother or sister," DelCampo said. "A lot of the research does show that the middle child is lost in the shuffle -- that many people just don't pay much attention to the middle child."

This lack of attention can affect middle children's personalities in two different ways, she said. They may feel unappreciated and go to extra trouble to attract attention. Also, middle children might turn out to be easy to get along with because they never really had to be in competition with anyone.

Youngest children often feel uncomfortable because they are not taken seriously, DelCampo said. "Sometimes, they will go out of character and become something really important just to show family members that they are competent."

Only children tend to be exaggerated versions of oldest children, she said. They generally are confident, responsible and independent.

One variable that affects birth order characteristics is family size. A family with two children often will look like one with two first-borns.

Little research has been done on families with more than five kids. It has been found that often, it's hard for parents to give these children the one-on-one attention that they need, DelCampo said. The positive outcome is that kids with many siblings tend to be more sociable.