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What your sibling birth order says about your personality, from attention seekers to peacemakers

If you’ve got siblings, you’re probably more than aware of how different each of you are—and your birth order plays a big role in that. Whether you’re the oldest, the youngest, or a middle child, scientists are convinced that our rank within our families can greatly influence our personality traits.

Of course, we all have our own opinion on the matter. I’m the youngest, and I definitely think some of my selfishness and my tendency to get my own way—because my parents essentially gave up by the time it came to me—come from being the youngest daughter.

But what do the experts think? Here’s what we found.

The firstborn child

According to a study by the University of Illinois, eldest siblings tend to be more “extroverted, agreeable, and conscientious.” The study also found that firstborn children tend to have a higher IQ than those born later, though the difference was only a point or so. (In fact, according to the study, the differences between firstborn children and those born later are “so small that they have no practical relevance to people’s lives.”)

Another study by the University of Essex came to a similar conclusion about the eldest child’s tendency to have a higher IQ, noting that firstborns—especially those who are female—are statistically more likely to be the most ambitious and well-qualified of their family, as they tend to carry higher aspirations.

Sam Jahara, psychotherapist and cofounder of Brighton & Hove Psychotherapy, told Glamour UK that some studies suggest firstborn children “enjoy a distinct advantage over their later-born counterparts in terms of educational attainment.”

“The level of attention that parents devote to firstborns is usually much higher, but these children will also be on the receiving end of their parent’s anxieties and the overwhelm of being new parents,” she said. “Oldest children usually enjoy a period of exclusive attention. Being first gains a child some degree of status in the sibling hierarchy which remains even after their siblings come along.”

A study by YouGov concluded that as older siblings were often left in charge or asked to look after younger siblings, “elder siblings are more likely to feel more organized and able to prioritize their own lives.”

Key characteristics of a firstborn

  • Extroverted
  • Smart
  • Ambitious
  • Enjoys taking the lead
  • Organized

The middle child

According to Jahara, middle children are usually more invested in getting on with others and negotiating for what they need due to being used to sharing resources with their siblings. “Middle children have never known what it is like to have the parent’s exclusive attention, so they come into a world where they are expected to share from the start,” she said. “Middle children are often called peacekeepers within the family. A middle child may also compete for attention due to their middle status. They are neither the baby or the eldest, so they will need to find a way to stand out.”

In the book The Secret Power of Middle Children, psychologist Catherine Salmon and journalist Katrin Schumann wrote about how middle children are often described as neglected. (We’ve all heard of middle child syndrome.) Speaking about their research to Psychology Today, Schumann said, “Although middles are neglected, both by parents and researchers, they actually benefit from this in the long run. They become more independent, think outside the box, feel less pressure to conform, and are more empathetic. This gives them great skills as employees and also makes them excellent team players and partners.”

She added that, due to their ranking, middle children are more patient as well as “savvy, skillful manipulators.”

Key characteristics of a middle child

  • Team players
  • Patient
  • Independent
  • Empathetic
  • Skillful manipulators

The youngest child

“By the time the third child comes along, parents are usually more relaxed about raising their youngest,” says Jahara. “The older siblings will also play a role in their sibling’s upbringing so the burden isn’t exclusively on the parents. With the firstborn being the ‘responsible high achiever’ and the middle child the ‘peacemaker,’ the pressure is usually off the youngest. However, this can also lead to them feeling like they are ‘lagging behind’ or are insignificant.”

Researchers at the universities of Reading and Birmingham concluded that the baby of the family is more likely to take risks when it comes to business—and according to The Sunday Times, more likely to become an entrepreneur.

This is supposedly thanks to having a “born to rebel” personality trait that makes them “exploratory, unconventional and tolerant of risk.” The YouGov study also concluded that the youngest child in a family tends to be more chilled out and to have a funny sense of humor.

Key characteristics of a younger child

  • Easy-going
  • Funny
  • Risk takers
  • Entrepreneurial

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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