Birth Order Affects a Person's Success

Updated on July 31, 2018
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Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.

The Braxtons from left to right Towanda,  Trini, Traci, Toni, the oldest, Michael, and Tamar, the youngest
The Braxtons from left to right Towanda, Trini, Traci, Toni, the oldest, Michael, and Tamar, the youngest

How Your Birth Order Affects You

People had no control over which family they were born into, and they had no control over whether they were the oldest, middle, or the youngest child born to their parents. Neither did they have a choice to be an only child.

While no one had any control over their birth order, scientists, psychologists, sociologists and other experts agree that the order in which a person fits into his family unit has a great deal to do with how successful he will eventually become.

They also agree that one's personality, intelligence, and characteristics have a lot to do with their birth order.

In most families, it is easy to determine the birth order of a child. Sometimes that can be a problem because a woman could have had a child when she was younger and gave the child up for adoption. Then when she married later in life and had a child, the child will think she or he is the oldest when the child is the second one and not the first and will not have the characteristics of a first child.

Dalton Conley, New York University professor of sociology and public policy, is a firm believer that all children are not born equal, and he proves it in his book The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why. He contends that 75 percent of families in the United States have successful firstborns. He used Bill and Roger Clinton as examples as well as Jimmy and Billy Carter.

Conley stresses that these are just theories and general observations concerning birth orders. Other things must be considered such as the child's personality, the age gap between siblings and the family circumstances children experiences during their formative years.

Taylor Swift is a firstborn. She has a younger brother.
Taylor Swift is a firstborn. She has a younger brother.

The First Child

Parenting expert Michael Grose believes that firstborn have special privileges that others don't have because of their birth order. He emphasizes his viewpoints in his book, Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It.

Grose justifies his conclusion by explaining that everyone is in the survival of the fittest from the first moment we are born. That is based on Charles Darwin's theory that we all struggle from the moment we are born. During the course of our lives, we fight for a position within our family where we can receive time with our parents as well as love and affection from them.

Usually, the firstborn is the only child that gets all the attention from parents even if it is only temporary until the next child comes along and things change. Birth order also determines who is sent to war. Usually, it's the youngest as he is considered the spare.

Grose contends that in most cases, the birth of the firstborn is celebrated more than children who are born later. Their first steps, first words, and all their firsts are celebrated, but by the time the other children come along, parents do not celebrate as much.

Because of all the attention they receive, firstborns are more confident and are known to be achievers.

On the negative side, firstborns are found to be a little selfish because they are the only siblings who experience having their parents all to themselves for a while before having to share them when other children are born.

Firstborns and only children include every United States astronaut and most Nobel prize-winners. Firstborns usually include are politics, law, science, and accounting. More than half of the United States Presidents are firstborns, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Other famous firstborns include Hillary Clinton, Kate Middleton, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, J.K. Rowling, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis and all the actors who have played James Bond.

Newscasters and TV talk show hosts tend to be firstborn children such as Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, Oprah, Donahue, Geraldo, Arsenio Hall and Rush Limbaugh.

Jennifer Lopez is a middle child.
Jennifer Lopez is a middle child.

The Middle Child

Middle children seem to lose out by neither receiving the celebrations of being the oldest, and they miss out for not being pampered like the youngest child. Therefore, they have to compromise and find their own balance. Middle children sometimes get lost in large families like Marcia did on The Brady Brunch.

Middle children are not faced with the high expectations of the first child or the modest expectations of the youngest child.

They usually choose careers in retail, sales, fashion, advertising or the caring professions.

Some well-known middle children include Stella McCartney, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cindy Crawford, Cate Blanchett, Bill Gates, J.F.K., Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Princess Diana, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kim Kardashian West.

Experts say when there is a five to six-year gap between children, the next child starts a “new” birth order.

Janet Jackson is the youngest child among her siblings.
Janet Jackson is the youngest child among her siblings.

The Youngest Child

The last born child is pampered while he is young, but when he grows up he develops his own path because he doesn't want to be in competition with older siblings. It would be wise for parents not to push the youngest child to follow in older siblings' footsteps if he doesn't want to do so.

The youngest child sometimes turns out to have a mind of his own and decides not to be like his older siblings. Parents tend to be less demanding and have lower expectations for the youngest because they have had practice with the oldest and middle child.

Younger children may choose professions that allow them to be creative. They become fond of the performing arts.

Some well-known youngest children include Jennifer Lawrence, Tamar Braxton, Janet Jackson, Solange Knowles, Hugh Grant, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Ryan Gosling, Angelina Jolie, Jim Carrey, Rosie O'Donnell, Eddie Murphy and Billy Crystal.

Justin Bieber is an only child.
Justin Bieber is an only child.

Only Children

The main difference between only children and firstborns is that they never experience having to share their parents with siblings. People think only children have it made. However, that is not entirely true. They are often lonely people and have grown accustomed to being alone and doing things without others. Only children tend to be more creative and responsible than children with siblings.

In a way, the only child is the firstborn, the oldest and the youngest.

Well-known only children include Chelsea Clinton, Justin Bieber, Kerry Washington, Tiger Woods, Rudy Guiliani, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Drew Barrymore, Alicia Keys, Maria Sharapova, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen are twins and middle siblings.
Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen are twins and middle siblings.


Twins deserve their own study, but briefly, twins hold equal status and are treated similarly. When they are younger, they don't mind dressing alike and doing things together. When they become adults, some twins like to be different. The older twin tends to brag about being older even if it is by a minute.

Some twins go into the same profession like advice columnists Abigail Friedman who is known for "Dear Abby" and her twin, Esther Friedman for "Ann Landers." Harold and Bernard Shapiro are twins and they both become presidents of well-known universities. Harold became president of Princeton University and Bernard became president of Canada's McGill University.

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen (pictured above) both have a career in fashion. Niki and Brie Bella (pictured below) are professional wrestlers who perform as a tag team.

Twins Niki and Brie Bella, professional wrestlers
Twins Niki and Brie Bella, professional wrestlers

What's your birth order

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      I was the last born and I have three older siblings. My siblings were 18 years old, 16 years old and 14 years old when I was born. My mom became a widow when she was 25 years old and had three young children to care for...luckily my mom had seven siblings to help her out at that time. When my mom was 30 years old she married my dad who was 32 years old. By the time I was born my mom was 40 years old and my dad was 42 years old. Early on when my mom was pregnant with me she thought that she was experiencing menopause but was pleasantly surprised when her doctor told her that she was pregnant with her fourth child. Despite the big age gap with my three siblings I am very close to them and love spending time with them.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      I'm sure this applies to the majority of people, but I'm usually a case where I don't fit into the social norm. I'm a first born and have 2 siblings, 2 years younger and 8 years younger. Anything I've ever read about first borns just doesn't fit me. I'm definitely not an achiever or a leader or had a career path. I did go to college and received a bachelors degree, but that's the extent of my achievements and formal education. I've been called a "free spirit" by others. I feel like the middle child description fits me better.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      WOW! Priya Barua, that's great. Thanks for reading my article and sharing your experience as the youngest sibling.

    • Priya Barua profile image

      Priya Barua 

      2 years ago

      It's a very interesting article.I am the youngest, and true to your article, I have chosen a path completely different from what my sibling is doing!

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Seanofjohn, It is good that you are in agreement with the experts.

    • seanorjohn profile image


      2 years ago

      Yes I do. I am one of 8 children and the oldest and youngest conform to this.I am third born so I am middle child.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      So, seanorjohn, do you believe the stats?

    • seanorjohn profile image


      2 years ago

      the stats don,'t lie. very impressive.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Eric, I also wonder where adopted children fit into this spectrum.

      I am one of ten children, the third from the top and the eighth from the bottom. All of the siblings are two years apart. I don't think I have the characteristics of what the experts say about middle children.

      Sometimes I feel like I am in a category that has not been identified yet. (smile)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very good stuff here. Not real hard notions but very worthwhile to observe. My experience was to compare to and emulate elder siblings along with a dose of lowered expectations. I reckon it had a lot to do with who I am.

      I wonder where adopted children fit into this spectrum.


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