From those Early Childhood classes to the Psych coursework, I have
a few pieces of information about birth order, siblings and the “onlies”
in the family. I hope to just talk and compare the studies and learnings
with my own experience with two brothers and my three children.
Since my six grandchildren are from age nine to age two, like little
stair steps, I probably will not include their growth so far or make any
Let’s think about the only children out there. I am sure most of you
have wished to be an “only child” at least once in your life! Their
secure life, being the center of their parents’ “doting” eyes, more
possession, and all new clothes, made me envious at times! I had
one good friend throughout my entire life who was an only child.
I am writing to a good, new friend, Tracy on our blog sites who is
lauching her son out into the world of college and it is a scary but
exciting moment for her.
The wisdom that I learned from rereading some notes on child
development about only children also includes not just their feeling
of security. I read that they relate to adults better, grow up being
more confident in mature or “adult” relationships, and they have
a parent or set of parents who introduce more activities, social
settings and make up for no siblings by being close knit. I am still
confident that this is a wonderful position to be in.
In the next “category,” are the first born children. I could go on
and on about my personal experience of being 18 months older
than my next brother and then 3 years older than my youngest
but who wants to know more about Me? Ha!
There is a predominant “theme” going on, when you read about
how successful, both professionally and monetarily the first born
children achieve. This is not so true in my case, but having the
children, divorce and life were some setbacks. Both my brothers
have had great relationships with women with children. My
“youngest” brother has spent over twenty years with his wife,
who had three children of her own. I like that part of our personal
journeys, since he says, my having three children, being single
and having some similar dark hair and eyes could have contributed
to their successful marriage.
Although genes, parents attitudes and reactions along with that
ever present “danger” and sometimes “blessing” of peers (with
peer pressure) studies still say the relationship of siblings has
a huge impact on the way we see things and carry out our lives.
Certainly, in most cases, your brothers and sisters are the ones
who are your ready made play pals. They can impact upon your
life through those 10 -17 hours a week you spend once school
starts. Before school, obviously, endless hours can pass by yourself,
as an “only” or with your sibling(s).
First borns have become the majority of our Presidents, leaders
and again “successes” in the measurable ways that studies are
carried out. There have been even a few to impart this fact: First
borns may have higher IQ’s. I suppose, looking at it as a parent,
you spend a lot of time on that first one. I didn’t have much time
since my first husband envied the wonderfully combined ways
that my brothers and I worked as a team. So, we chose to “make”
a second baby (even finding out a higher probability way to have
a boy for our second child so we could be “finished.”) His brother
and sister, being 5 and 7 years older than he, made him feel
separated and not included in their older life style. It did contribute
to him rolling his big brother’s car out of the sloped drive at age 12
to go on a “cruise!” It also, always to me, made him seem so mature.
Little did I know…!
The second child or even, middle child, becomes a different source
of information. The ways the first born “cut the path” or led the
family are already formed. There are significant ways that the parents
have developed relationships with children through that first born
that impact the next born. The choices and points of view, even the
“rules” and discipline patterns are being developed before you, as
a second child, have come along.
The “middles” go to friends more, studies show, while the first born
goes to his or her parents for information and support, whether
emotional or financial. There are several stereotypes also in this
category, where they seem to not know their way, their position is
more precarious. Sometimes these sterotypes may influence your
thoughts upon reflecting upon your middle child, as they do mine.
Also, they may not be quite fair either. I found by having a son
between two girls, I would make a joke, maybe it would haunt me
later…”My son is the thorn between two roses.” We spent a whole
year in therapy, from age fifteen years to sixteen years old. My son
and I were very close before he turned nine, when I married my
This is a little regretful confession, I allowed my second and third
husband to take my son’s position of being the “man in the house”
away. Believe me, I thought for sure this would be a relief! I am a
big analyzer and never dreamed that he loved sitting in the front,
being the navigator. Really! I didn’t know he even liked taking the
garbage out, starting my car and also, the chore of mowing the
lawn! Along came men, twice, (one for two years and then a
span of seven years of singledom, then another for 13 years
who each “took his position away.”) I was so sad when Dr. Miguel
Hernandez intoned these words to me. I thought he had always
his Dad, my first husband who loved him “best.” Sorry, but it is
true, my ex did not take my daughter (oldest) to any Cincinnati
Reds baseball games or Bengals football games. She stayed at
home with his second and third wives, sometimes to go shop
but usually to maintain by herself.
I thought by putting more time in with the girls, my littlest had
my full attention once the second divorce occurred, that son
would be just fine.
Anyway, the most important part of any time you spend with
your children is to pay attention to what they like. So, after or
before therapy, once a week, we did miniature golf or got a
big bucket of golf balls and whacked away at them. We went
off to bars, to play pool and drink pop with wings. We went on
walks, we talked and we celebrated his sixteenth birthday on
our own, with Mexicans singing their “Feliz cumpleanos” and
how he now had big “cajones!”
I can add to the middle child syndrome saying through the
fine art of observation of my middle brother and my son,
they are very creative, independent, have their own unique
identities and sometimes are more sensitive. They both have
a little “wish they had paid more attention to me.” My son used
to count the Christmas presents and the jelly beans in his
Easter basket. I think they want to really know they are loved!
Whoa! the youngest are amazing individuals in my children and
my brothers and I’s cases. They set their own path, sometimes
more secure in all that “trickled down” love. (This and a few of
the quoted words are all my opinions and not taken from any
The studies include for third or last born children, these lovely
“edicts” they are risk takers, they break the mold, and they
move ahead faster. They have bundles of “baby love” piled
on them. I can tell you this, if I heard it once, I heard it a 1000
times, my little brother was “cute” and “adorable.” He was a
blonde towhead that my brunette brother (18 months younger)
and I would declare, “was the mailman or milkman’s son,”
depending on which way we wanted to try and bring him a little
At U.C. Berkeley, there was an interesting study of three famous
baseball players, all with the last name of DiMaggio. They were,
of course, Joe, (who married the gorgeour icon, Marilyn Monroe!),
Dom and Vince. In the study, they pondered, gathered information,
and came up with the conclusion that the youngest DiMaggio “stole
bases more often” which confirmed the studies in other areas of
the “babies in the family”: They are secure in areas unlike others
in the very same family.
I love this study that was done about favorites. Everyone believes their
parents show favoritism. I felt that my parents were “hardest” on me
and expected more. I am never sure, though, if some of the reasons
were that I was the only girl. There were some advantages to that! I
had my own room, my mother sewed matching dresses for us and I
was chosen to go along to the grocery store and to the Great Northern
Mall in North Olmsted. I was always happy to have these one on one
“ride along” experiences.
Anyway, the study, interestingly enough covered from the grown kids’
points of view compared to the parents. Of course, many parents were
kind and proper in their approach, saying they “loved them all the same.”
I could not disagree more with this statement, as a mother of three, I
loved them all differently, uniquely and favored each during different
stages of their lives. Sorry, but sometimes I relied and loved my oldest
daughter more. I loved the baby child since I knew she was my last one
and I didn’t have to share her, thanks to my ex’s mistake of infidelity
and a very sympathetic court. I got to raise her as my own while sharing
her with my then retired parents, brothers, and along with a generous
and loving (only sister) sister in law! Lastly, my son, like me, being the
only boy, had his own room, his own ways of getting away with things,
after all, a boy should be allowed more freedom (wrong thinking on
my part and very stereotypical! But it happened within my own siblings
and my life, so hard to break that pattern.)
A last intriguing study was done by a man named William Ickes, PhD.
He was a professor of psychology who did his research in 1983. You
probably can look this up for any further interest or verification. He
chose to look at the picture of male and female sibling relationships
and then, take the way they responded in a different setting. When
the girls with older brothers, boys with older sisters were studied
compared to ones who were only children or were oldest. The ones
who had someone to look up to and “emulate” (again my word choice)
This watching, imitating and respecting the ones who had gone before
them, helped these siblings combinations to break the ice and become
more social in a setting established by the researcher. He further
extrapolated that closer knit siblings within this study had more
positive relationships with the opposite sex. So, thank your older
brother or sister for that great marriage or romance, folks!
I feel an interesting end of this thinking and contemplating siblings, is
to picture growing older. I found a few situations that were written
about how the oldest ended up the caretaker of the parent(s). I also
found that sometimes the differences that were well entrenched and
established between siblings changed and evolved, very positively
when grown older.
Death and other tragedies can bring people in families closer or
widen the gap between siblings and parents. Sometimes there is
the hurt egos, the old feelings of neglect and playing the “blame
game.” I would hope, in all sincerity, that illness, death and other
disasters would bring new ties, building and binding those wounds
so that everyone can have a happier future. When my Dad was ill,
I have mentioned we had a jokes and funny stories “rule” that
everyone had to find something to bring smiles to Dad’s faces,
and I will tell you that I will never forget how we all felt so much
closer and so much joy, despite the true reason for our joking.
We tried to carry out some of Dad’s “bucket list” and we did
not cry nor complain. My brothers and uncle had built a ramp
for my Dad’s wheelchair about a week or two in the freezing
cold of winter, before he died on January 27, 2001.
Birth order sometimes affects personality, success rate, happiness
and does reveal continued patterns that show up across the world
in varied studies. Generalities can be proven, but also there will
naturally be exceptions to any “rules!”
My final thought, of course, is to try to repair any damages in your
relationships, whether with siblings, parents or friends. We all have
limited time on this earth, we need to be spending that “guilt free”
Happy endings are always the way that I wish you all to go!
Don’t postpone joy for another day!