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Midterm Essay December 20, 2011 Birth Order Most studies dealing with birth order have focused

on the actual birth order instead of

psychological birth order. Adler acknowledged that the order of birth combined with early social interactions affect the developing personality. Other confounding issues are gender, family makeup, spacing of children, divorce and remarriage, the addition of stepsiblings and/or half siblings and the stereotypes of birth order. There are four categories related to birth order; first born, middle (or second) born, last born, and the only child. First born children are thought to be powerful, rule followers, respectful of authority, be more pessimistic about the future, have higher academic achievements and be under more pressure from their parents (Kalkan, 2008 p. 455 & Schultz, 2005, p. 149). Middle born children are often thought of as the peacemakers of the family (Kalkan, 2008 p. 455). They tend to compete more with older siblings, are competitive and ambitious and often feel squeezed between the first-born and the youngest (Kalkan, 2008, p. 456 & Schultz, 2005, p. 149). Last born are thought to be babied, pampered, spoiled, charming, and sociable (Kalkan, 2008, p. 455). They can also become high achievers since they often will feel the need to compete with their older siblings (Schultz, 2005, p. 149). However, Adler thought they if they were excessively pampered they may not learn to function alone and have difficulty adjusting to the world outside the home (Schultz, 2005, p. 149). The only child shares some of the characteristics of the first born and last born. The parents often shelter them, always the center of attention, and under pressure to perform well in endeavors (Kalkan, 2008, p. 456). Like last born who are the center of attention, only children can have a difficult time adjusting to life outside the home where they are no longer the most important person.

Midterm Essay Psychological birth order is defined as the way a person perceives his or her position in the family and not the position they were born into. According to Kalkan (2008), Adler emphasized that it is not the actual chronological birth order, but the childs interpretation of his

or her perceived position in the family which is the most important factor (p. 456). A first-born child may have the characteristics of a middle born or last-born child. Campbell (1991) stated; in distinguishing between psychological and birth-order positions, found that in assessing differential trait identification, (a) 80% of the firstborn children identified with the psychological position of the oldest and, therefore may be a more homogenous group, (b) psychologically firstborn children rate themselves higher on sociably desirable traits than others rate themselves, and (c) birth-order and psychological position are different especially for middle and youngest children. (p. 381) Each child works within the family to find his or her place among their siblings in order to be viewed as significant in the eyes of the parents and other siblings (Kalkan, 2008, p. 356). According to Dunkel (2009); Differences in personality arise because parents differentially divide their limited resources according to aspects of the current and potential fitness of each off spring, and offsprings solicit and compete for these resources by filling a unique niche in the family. (p. 159)

These resources can be monetary or material, cognitive (time spent with a child), or interpersonal (love shown to a child). The investment by parents can very by birth order even if the parents try to fair and equal. According to Kalkan (2008), there is a stronger relationship between psychological birth order and lifestyle than between actual birth order and lifestyle (p. 457).

Midterm Essay

The display of birth order characteristics can also be affected by gender, spacing of children, and family atmosphere (Campbell, 1991, p. 388). Last-born children that have siblings who are much older than they are tend to identify more with the only child category. If there are only two children in the family then the last-born tends to identify with the middle born role and want to be more like their older sibling. According to Campbell (1991), The occurrence of only children, primarily females, who identify psychologically with the youngest may stem from the belief that only and youngest children share a specialness in their roles in the family that other children dont enjoy (p. 388). Campbell goes on to say (1991), The identification with the youngest experienced by the only male may be tempered by the expectations for an only son which could include responsibilities and behavioral, specifically achievement, expectations imposed by the parents (p. 388-p. 389). Birth order can also be affected by divorce, remarriage, stepparents and stepsiblings, half siblings and adopted siblings. Research on birth order can be affected by a number of variables that include parental age and education. Older parents tend to spend more time with their children than do their younger counterparts. There is also a problem with researchers only looking at individual components of the family structure. According to Dunkel (2009), the dependent variable examined may differ in their degree of sensitivity to birth-order influences(p. 160). It can also be affected by societies beliefs. Dunkel (2008) believes that the effects of birth order are more likely to be found with measures that take into account the dynamics within a family instead of particular traits. People also tend to believe in the stereotypes regarding birth order. In a study done in 1985 by Baskett (Herrera, 2003, p. 143) participants were asked to complete a 50 item checklist that described what they would expect a child without brothers or sister, a child who was the oldest

Midterm Essay in his or her family, and a child who was the youngest in his or her family to be like (Herrera, 2003, p. 143). According to Herrera (2003); Post hoc comparisons indicated that participants believed that (a) firstborns are the most obedient, outgoing, and secure and the least spoiled; (b) only children

are the most academic and spoiled and the least likeable; and (c) last-born are the most likeable but the least academic, obedient, outgoing, and secure. (p. 143)

Herrera, Zajonc et al. three studies that showed results consistent with the study done by Baskett in 1985. Herrera goes on to say that (2003), It is entirely possible that peoples beliefs about birth rank differences may induce differences in parents expectations for their own children and about other people in general. They may also induce differences in the attributions about their childrens abilities and behavior. As a result, people may react differently to firstborn and later-born children and may differentially reinforce and shape child behavior that fits within these stereotypes (Baskett, 1985, p. 444). That behavior, in turn, might strengthen their beliefs. (p. 150) Research done on birth order has had conflicting results. Some researchers say birth order matters, and others say that birth order has no effect as all, often after having looked at the same research. What is clear however, is that better research is necessary to either validate or disprove the birth order theory. Stronger controls for gender, spacing of children, family atmosphere, and stereotypical ideas of birth order, will help to streamline the interpretation of the data and bring about a general consensus.

Midterm Essay References Kalkan, M. (2008). The Relationship of Psychological Birth Order To Irrational Relationship Beliefs. Social Behavior and Personality, 36(4), 455-466 Schultz, D.P., & Schultz S.E. (2005). Alfred Adler, Theories of Personality (124-149). California: Thomson Wadsworth

Campbell, L., White J., & Stewart, A. (1991). The Relationship of Psychological Birth Order to Actual Birth Order. Individual Psychology, 47(3), 380-391 Dunkel, C. S., Harbke, C. R., & Papini, D. R. (2009). Direct and Indirect Effects of Birth Order on Personality and Identity: Support for the Null Hypothesis. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 170(2), 159-175 Herrera, N.C., Zajonc, R.B., Wieczorkowska, G., & Cichomski B. (2003). Beliefs About Birth Rank and Their Reflection in Reality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(1), 142-150