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Birth Order, Part 2, or Why Your Characters Behave the Way They Do

Last week, we looked at the peculiarities of the first born and middle child.  Today, we’ll examine the last born, only child and twins.  The way they behave can help you in crafting your story’s characters.

Last Born Children

Last born children fight hard to get noticed.  They are often the class clown, the maverick, the life of the party.  Their older siblings consider them spoiled.

Characteristics of the youngest include:

Manipulative Charming Show off People person Casts blame on others
Engaging Good salesperson Precocious Risk taker Outgoing

 

Careers include “On stage” professions – TV announcers and anchor people, salespeople (because of their ability to manipulate people).  They like jobs where they can work alone and do things at their own pace.

Strengths Weaknesses
Outgoing, affectionate, creative, confident, uncomplicated, Spoiled, manipulative, immature, self-centered, impetuous, feel they live in the shadow, rebellious, absentminded

 

Why?  Parents are “taught out” and let the kid fend for himself.

They are suckers for praise and encouragement.  Their attention-seeking antics can be turned around with a “I’ll show them” attitude.

Famous last born children include Howard Stern, Jay Leno, Danny DeVito, Steve Martin.

 

 

Only Children

If the first born child is pressured to succeed, the only child is the mega first born, squared.  They are super perfectionists, super reliable, super scholarly and any of the other super*latives generally applied to the first born.

How an only born’s personality is molded depends on why he’s an only.  If his parents tried to have other children but could only have one, all their energy and attention is heaped on him.  He can become very pampered and spoiled and may have problems in later life with self-centeredness.

If he is an only child because it was a conscious decision of his parents’, he may have grown up with a very structured, disciplined expectation of being the “little adult.”  Resentment at being deprived of his childhood might cause problems.

An only child’s personality can swing from responsible, upstanding citizen to scared and rebellious because they’re not in as much control as they look.

Strengths Weaknesses
Matures faster, gets along better with older or younger people, responsible, ambitious, perfectionists, conscientious, loves facts and details Self-centered, have difficulty sharing, attention seeking, fear of trying new things, worry too much, inflexible

 

Onlies tend to be critical, often lonely, and have difficulty relating to peers.

Careers include those similar to the first born child: law, medicine, architecture.

Famous only children are Robin Williams, Tiger Woods, Brooke Shields, Carol Burnett.

 

Twins

Twins can take on any of the other birth order’s characteristic, so it is hard to describe them, but there is a distinction on which of the two is the leader.

The leader’s traits:

Most resemble first borns Aggressive Loud
Outspoken Opinionated Intolerant

 

The follower’s traits:

Most resembles shy middle child Shy Loner
Quiet Wallflower Undefiant

 

Twins may have identity issues, not feel unique, hide behind their twin’s shadow or feel overshadowed. On the plus side, they have a constant companion, someone who understands them.  They are confident, multi-taskers and want to stand out from their peers.

Famous twins include Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, The Olsen Twins, Fred and George Weasley.

 

Variables

Of course, not every first born is a perfectionist, and not every middle child is a peacekeeper.  You can use these variables to think outside the box when it comes to adding depth to your characters.

Parents

The marital status of the parents is important.  If your character’s parents are married, separated, divorced or remarried, it will have an effect on him.

Parenting style is also critical.  A strict parent has different expectations than a more liberal one, regardless of birth order.

Parent birth order can influence a child.  A first born parent will be more critical of their first born child.  A middle born parent will be less confrontational.

Siblings

A gap of more than five years between siblings often creates a “second family” with the new child taking on the characteristics of a first born.

Adoption of a new child rearranges the dynamics of the existing child(ren) as does the blending of two families through remarriage.  Their order is bumped up or down, and resentment at being replaced as the oldest/youngest can cause friction.

A sibling with a physical or mental handicap causes the other children in the family to mature quicker, whether they are older or younger.

The death of a sibling bumps a child up or down.  Children usually take the role of the sibling to keep the deceased child a part of their life.  “Ghost” children occur when a child dies and another is born shortly afterward.

 

Resources

The Birth Order Book, Why You Are The Way You are by Dr. Kevin Leman

Ancestry.com, the importance of birth order

The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum

http://www.birthorderplus.com/

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/birtho.htm

 

Birth order, part 1, or why your characters behave the way they do

 

Birth Order

Or

Why Your Characters Behave The Way They Do

Does your hero run a large corporation?  Is he a mover and shaker in the business world?  Or is he in a creative field such as advertising or entertainment?  Does he negotiate well?  Speak first and regret it afterward?  Maybe he’s the life of every party.

Whatever his occupation, you can bet his birth order had an effect on his personality and career choice.  First born children generally share characteristics, as do last borns and middle borns. Not all attributes apply to each birth order, but on average studies have shown them to be more true than not.

Today, we’ll discuss the peculiarities of the first born and the middle child.  Next week, we’ll look at the youngest, only child and twins as well as the variables that can affect their behavior.

 

First Born Children

First Born children usually have the most attention directed at him/her, even before birth, because the pregnancy was a BIG DEAL.  More likely than not, hopes and dreams (of multiple generations) are pinned on them, and they are pressured to perform from day one.

They are their parents’ “guinea pig”, and their parents often overdo and overprotect their first born child.  They first born child grows up faster and are handed responsibility early.

Some common characteristics:

Perfectionist Reliable List maker Organized Critical
Goal oriented Prompt Scholarly In control Well groomed
Motivated to achieve success Believes in law and order No gray areas Likes structure Logical
Critical Energetic Ambitious Enterprising Serious

 

Professions – A higher percentage of first borns are in science, medicine, law, accounting, architecture, engineers, computers, and reporters (except on air.)

He feels he’s the only one who gets things done and is confident in being taken seriously by others.

21 of the first 23 astronauts were first born children.

2/3 of entrepreneurs are first born children.

Strengths Weaknesses
High confidence level, taken seriously, strong concentration, confident, feels supported and that they will be respected for what they do A fear of being dethroned, overachiever, strong-willed, feel as though they’re never good enough, selfish, critical

 

Two typical types

First born children come in two typical types – compliant/willing to please and assertive/strong willed.

The compliant first born grows up as a pleaser of others.  Since childhood, he was the one responsible to get things done.  His parents depended on him, and it was his solemn duty to not let them down.

Common characteristics of the compliant first born:

Reliable Good student Pleaser Nurturer Strong need for approval
Won’t complain Team player Conscientious Cooperative “Grin & bear it” mentality

 

The second type is the assertive, strong willed type.  They are the pace-setters and trend-setters.  They have high expectations, not only of themselves, but everyone else.

Common characteristics of the assertive first born:

Assertive Strong-willed Precise Insistent High achiever
Driven Perfectionist In control Want things their way Conventional

 

Famous first borns:

Oprah, Charlton Heston, Rush Limbaugh

 

 

Middle Children

Middle childrens’ attitude and lifestyle plays off that of the firstborn child.  Generally, their personalities are the opposite of their older sibling.  If he senses he can compete, he will.  If the older child is stronger or smarter, the second may go off in another direction.

Middle borns may feel like a fifth wheel.  They go outside of their family to create a “family” with friends. Middles are the most secretive of all birth orders, because they feel the world isn’t paying attention and chose not to confide their plans.

They are the last to seek professional help because they consider themselves mentally tough and independent.

They are considered the most monogamous and have a strong commitment to make the marriage work.

Professions include sales, art, advertising, a career that involves negotiating or being level headed and unbiased.

They are tenacious because they’re used to life being unfair.

Middle children characteristics include:

Strengths Weaknesses
Peacemakers, unspoiled, realistic, imaginative, loyal, mediator, independent, flexible, diplomatic Hates confrontation, stubborn, suspicious, rebellious, “family” is friends, difficulty setting boundaries

 

Like first borns, they come in two types.

Type 1:

Loner Quiet, shy Impatient Uptight Fights for respect

 

Type 2:

Outgoing Friendly Loud Laid back Patient

 

Famous middle children are Donald Trump, Tim Allen, Julia Roberts, Richard Nixon, David Letterman

Resources

The Birth Order Book, Why You Are The Way You are by Dr. Kevin Leman

Ancestry.com, the importance of birth order

The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum

http://www.birthorderplus.com/

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/birtho.htm