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If it sometimes seems like older children were born bossy, consider some of history’s most famous eldest children: Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, and Winston Churchill.

In fact, some of the stereotypes regarding first-born children have a grain of truth to them—they can be responsible, organized, and ambitious. They can also be famous type-A personalities.

Of course, every family is different and everything from a death in the family to a large age gap between the firstborn and younger children, divorce, blended families, gender, size and several other things can affect a child’s personality more than birth order, but psychologists have been studying birth order long enough to know that it does actually affect the way a person turns out. Same with the middle child and the youngest child. So while it’s impossible to make too many generalizations, studies have shown that oldest children are often:

  • Assertive or dominant
  • Respectful of authority
  • Good students
  • Motivated
  • Leaders
  • Fearful in new situations
  • Mature
  • Dependent on others for approval
  • Self-disciplined
  • Confident

Takeaways

  • Famous eldest children include Winston Churchill and Oprah Winfrey.
  • Firstborn children can be responsible, organized, and ambitious.
  • Oldest children are usually mature, self-disciplined, and leaders.

References

  1. Journal of Individual Psychology. Birth Order.
  2. Psychological Science. Birth order effects on personality and achievement within families.
  3. Human Nature. Birth order and relationships.
  4. University of California, Berkeley. Birth Order.

Comments

  1. As a firstborn daughter I can relate to the traits of responsible, respectful, good student, dependent on others for approval, fearful in new situations, good student and mature but totally disagree on the comments below of dominant, bullying, self centred, got all the attention. I was picked on by my younger siblings and was responsible for them before and after school. As my mother was a strict disciplinarian I got the trouble whenever they got out of line as I was “supposed” to be watching them. I was always fearful of getting spanked for any bad behaviour attributed to my bro and sister as they would set me up to get in trouble for their antics. Being as I hated the thought of anyone feeling or hearing my mothers wrath I would shut my mouth and take the fall for any misdeeds by my siblings. I became shy and introverted with no self esteem always trying to please everyone to be accepted. I am now a mature woman and slowly started to accept my own self worth and learned how to stand up for myself when I had children.

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  2. Maybe we are not all that good at self assessment. But, as an eldest child (of three) I can definitely say that three of the parameters, respect for authority, a good student and mature are not me. I despise the deceit, self-aggrandisement and power-tripping so evident in much of ‘authority’. I was a rotten student, too much of a daydreamer and single-minded about what I wanted to do DESPITE the curriculum and ‘my future’. I had a name persistent disrupter at school. As for mature, phutt! I’m too intent on teasing the fun out of everyday situations and parodying the over-serious, to be seen as anything but immature. But as a scholar I would have seen 7 out of 10 as a perfectly adequate score for myself, and to satisfy those whom I needed to satisfy. But I certainly see that soliciting opinions at web sites such as this is really just a sleazy way of gathering contact information with a view to profit-making.

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  3. It’s not rocket science… in fact it’s so obvious that it barely needs a comment .. but here goes for those of you that think its a mystery…
    The first born gets 100% of the attention from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc..
    When the second born comes along the attention is now shared and the new younger now has not only the usual mom and dad attention but the first born is usually made somewhat responsible for taking care and watching over the second one.
    This says that the first born has now learned responsibility and become an authority figure to the second child.
    The first born has more power.
    the second has more dependence.

    Any third child gets the experience of the first two children and the parents don’t fret as much about the ‘safety’ of the third child as they did with the first as they know that a lot of their worries were unfounded (such as eating dust balls etc). So the 3rd child gets a bit less ‘worrying’ than the other two.
    If the children are fairly close together in ages – the second one who had all the attention before now feels left out as the 3rd child gets all the attention and usually none (or little) of the responsibilities that the first child has.
    This birth order and responsibility levels is what shapes the personalities.
    It becomes very evident as they all grow older…. in fact their behaviors are quite predictable.

    Reply
    1. Being the eldest, yes, I had a lot of attention, until my little sister was born. After she came into the world, everyone’s interest turned to her. I have to earn the attention I get by striving for the best, getting good grades and living a life I wouldn’t if I were the younger. More is also expected of me, I’m supposed to show my sister what to do so she can have an easier time with life, my parents make their mistakes on me so that they can be better parents to her. There are perks to being the oldest child, but as a whole, its a huge responsibility and disadvantage. But maybe that’s just me.

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  4. Is there a conservative link there? The descriptors make me think of a conservative person. My perceptions may be altered by the GOP’s incessant beat down of liberals and a hardcore Republican oldest brother.

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  5. Other than dominant in the sense of dominating, this is a load of crap. Every first born person, save one, I have ever met had been a complete **** intent on ******* everyone around them out of any form of happiness. As for organized, none have been truly organized, just think they are and shove their half ***** version of organization down everyone’s throats as if it’s the only possible way. Bossy is right, along with domineering, bullying, self-centered, and over all ********. All you youngest, think about all the nasty names your older siblings called you growing up, then ask yourself how many times you actually deserved it!

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    1. You are describing my oldest brother.

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  6. I’m the youngest of 5 and can say that this is true of my older sister. There are 3 boys in between…

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  7. I am an eldest child and I can relate to some of these traits, just not all.

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  8. As an oldest child, I would say that many of these traits are true!

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  9. I did an informal survey of a group of school librarians. A good ninety percent of them were first children. Wonder what this means?

    Reply
    1. Hmm, very interesting indeed. That doesn’t necessarily surprise me. Being a Librarian would take a great deal of organization, leadership and responsibility, which are all traits of first born children.

      Reply
    2. They control their realm.

      Reply

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