There’s a lot we have to thank our digestion for,
Every man who stepped on the Moon was the first-born child. Does that mean a youngest daughter or a middle son will never kick up dust on Mars? Not necessarily. But research does show that oldest children tend to grow up ambitious and structured– pretty good qualities for becoming an astronaut.
You’ve probably noticed (or maybe not) that we’ve gone a whole paragraph here without mentioning middles and babies. Typical. Those of us with half-finished baby albums and the bigger side of the bedroom (Mom and Dad just got tired) are more apt to become effective people managers (middles) or spotlight-stealers (babies.)
Only children–those who are surrounded by adults the most, without a sibling to either compete with or teach–tend to stand out in job interviews. Mature and hardworking, they’re the ones masterminding Internet startups, then pulling their hair out when the youngest they just contracted to launch the marketing campaign is late for a strategy meeting. Again.
There are exceptions in each family, not to mention non-traditional birth order arrangements such as wide gaps between children or sets of multiples. And at least one study states that usual birth order characteristics might be reflected inside a family unit, but not noted by outside observers.
But if you’re ready for a fun generalization or two, here’s what to expect from yourself depending on when you made your appearance on the planet:
-First borns bear the world on their shoulders. With rookie parents hovering over them and filming each blink, eldests are organized, and quickly.
-Often asked from an early age to form responsibility skills, their hands are the first in the air when someone needs the rummage sale organized or the cash box counted.
-And they’re to be trusted with that cash box: Most first borns are self-disciplined and honest, if more cautious than their younger siblings.
Famous oldests: Neil Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey
-Your local HR representative or therapist is most likely a middle baby. With a lifetime of negotiating between overwhelming elder siblings and needy or drama-queenish youngests, the cream of the Oreo typically has a high emotional intelligence.
-They’re probably also prom king or queen. All those people pleasing skills tend to translate into popularity and a wide circle of friends in childhood and beyond.
-Those strong social traits, though, might come at a price. Middles may feel unmoored within the family (“I’m not the oldest or the youngest… who am I?”) and could spend a lifetime battling feelings of insecurity.
Famous middles: Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr
-Babies can fly under the parental radar and grow up free and easy, but they might well be emotional manipulators in order to gain attention.
-Since they aren’t the family authority, a youngest child might bump up against hierarchy or traditional expectations. Name a person you know with a non-natural hair color: Chances are good that he or she is last-born.
-Without younger siblings on whom to establish responsibility skills–and, some argue, lowered parental standards–babies tend to have plenty of time and space to develop creativity.
Famous youngests: Drew Carey, Harriett Tubman