Birth Order Theory



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Rena Dam and Liz Waid look at birth order theory. How does a child's place in the family affect his character? Why are children from the same family often so different from one another?

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Rena Dam.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Imagine a family with three children. Maria is the oldest, David is the second child and Tom is the youngest. One day, their father told them some bad news - he lost his job. Maria was worried. She told her father that she would work to make money for the family. David put his arms around his father and told him that everything would be fine. Tom was sad - his father had promised him new shoes for football. How would he get them now?

Voice 2 

Why did Maria, David and Tom all react differently to their father’s news? Why are children from the same family often so different from one another?  Dr. Alfred Adler had a theory about this. He worked as a doctor in Austria one hundred years ago. He was very interested in the qualities of a person’s character or personality. Dr. Adler thought that the order that children were born into their families affected their personalities. Today’s Spotlight is on Adler’s birth order theory.

Voice 1 

There are four possible birth order positions within a family. A child may be the oldest, the youngest or the middle child. Other families have only one child with no brothers or sisters. Birth order theory says that our birth order influences what kind of person we each become.

Voice 2 

Frank Sulloway is a writer and family expert at the University of Calfornia, Berkeley. He believes that birth order affects personality and behavior. He talked to TIME magazine about it. He said that people develop this way for reasons of survival. If a family has more than one child, the children must compete for the parents’ time and resources - resources like food. Frank Sulloway says that people may not recognize that they are working for survival. But it is part of our natural desires. Sulloway says:

Voice 3            

"Siblings are much smarter than scientists. They are always trying to define their place in the family. They try to get the most resources out of their parents."

Voice 1 

Children in each birth position have a different way to gain an advantage in the family. Here are some of the main characters of personality by birth order:

Voice 2 

The first born or oldest child often gets more time with her parents. Think about our story from the beginning of this program. When Maria was born, she had no other siblings to compete for food or time. A first born child, like Maria, often wants to please her parents. She often takes control and responsibility in social situations. She may try to be perfect and do everything correctly. Jeffrey Kluger is a writer. He wrote a book about brothers and sisters. He described the character of an oldest child to the news station NPR:

Voice 4  

“It is often true that oldest children will be the most successful. They will be the ones who earn the most. They will be the ones who are most loyal to the family, most driven to achieve in traditional ways. They will also be the tallest, even if it is only by a few centimeters. They often have higher tested intelligence than the second-born.”

Voice 1 

The last born or youngest child, like Tom, is used to other people providing for him. He may be more concerned about himself than about other people. But Tom is also very friendly. He likes to make other people laugh with jokes and funny behavior. As the youngest, this is often the best way for him to get other people to notice him.

Voice 2 

David is an example of a middle child. He can sometimes feel left out. He does not get the advantages of being the oldest or the youngest. The middle child often develops skills in the arts, such as music or painting. Some middle children become competitive and even rebel against their parents. But many of them, like David, make peace in the family. As a middle child David has learned to work well with other people.

Voice 1 

The last birth order position is the only child. With no brothers or sisters she often gets whatever she wants! She does not have any competition for her parents’ time or resources. The only child often uses language very well because she spends so much time with adults. She can also feel a lot of pressure as the only child. This can make her competitive and hard-working.

Voice 2 

Do these personalities fit you and your family? Some people find that birth order theory describes them very well. Other people say the theory cannot be tested and does not work. There are many other variables or different situations that may change the effects of birth order on personality.

Voice 1 

These variables include the sex and age of each child and the number of brothers and sisters. Culture and education also make a difference. So does the amount of money that the family has. The experiences of the family can also change how birth order affects personality. For example, some children are adopted, not born into, their family. Families also change as a result of sickness, death or divorce of the parents.

Voice 2 

Some children may also need different treatment because of disabilities or medical needs - and this can affect the other children in the family. Dianna Anderson, a producer for Spotlight, gives an example. She has two older brothers, and one is disabled. Dianna says,

Voice 5 

“Birth order is very different in my family. Because my oldest brother is disabled, my middle brother is much more like a first child. I am in between a middle child and a youngest child. My middle brother is very smart and is very serious about his work. I work very hard too but I also love to make people laugh. Having a disabled first child changed how our parents treated the rest of their children.”

Voice 1 

There are many different variables that influence people’s personalities and actions. Birth order is just one interesting theory. And, as Frank Sullaway told ABC news:

Voice 3 

"Humans are complex. You can find things that are more important than birth order. But that does not mean that birth order is not something we can learn from."

Voice 2 

Has birth order affected your personality? We want to hear your family stories! Leave your comments on the script page for this program.

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Birth Order Theory’.

Voice 2 

You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you have brothers or sisters? Are you an oldest child, youngest child, middle child, or only child? Do you think this affects how you act?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Rain Bows
said on August 27, 2012

Good Morning Spotlight,
The birth orther in my family of course had affect me.
For being the youngest and the only girl.
I used to be spoiled and lazy cause I got everything done, also kind of selfish.
But it changed when I realized this way to be wasn’t taking me any higher, so I decided to improve myself by putting more effort in everything I do.
And it only gives me good results.
This article was very interesting.
Thank you very much!
Greetings,
Manta-Ecuador.

Avatar Spotlight
Rain Bows
said on August 27, 2012

The birth order*

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lookup
said on August 28, 2012

hello every body..

what is interesting topic. I like it. :)

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fredip
said on August 28, 2012

Hello Spotlight
I am a father of three. One and the first is a boy the other ones are girls. In fact all they are teenagers but when they were children acted in diferents way.  For me this theory is real. My wife and me lived many and differents experiences with every one.  When i read this article, i remembered some of these Tanks a lot and may God bless you.

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EBY
said on August 30, 2012

Hello everybody.
I agree with this theory because it matches my family.
We are three brothers and we have five sisters.
I am middle son my older brother is just like my father and he works a lot he likes his family very much. My younger brother is very selfish and he cares about himself a lot plus he wants everybody to pay attention to him too .I am like my older brother I a little rebel and I care much about my family . This story is the same among my sisters .
thanks your program and have a good time .
Bye.

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Dela
said on September 24, 2013

In my opinion, if the children have a good example in their parents, this fact strongly influences creation of their character, a form of behaviour, in spite of ‘‘The Birth Order Theory.’’ I was born as the only child, only girl. My father was kind but very strict and I was brought up rather as a boy. I had to live as real the oldest child. My father always insisted so as I was responsible, unselfish, polite, he taught me to realize importance of education, to love nature, art, music, to help people who needed that. I always wanted to make my parents happy. I thank them very much for everything beautiful, valuable they gave me during my childhood!
Thanks for a great article!

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Dela
said on September 24, 2013

In my opinion, if the children have a good example in their parents, this fact strongly influences creation of their character, a form behaviour, in spite of ‘‘The Birth Order Theory’‘. I was born as the only child, only girl. My father was kind but very strict and I was brought up rather as a boy, I had to live as real the oldest child. My father always insisted so as I was responsible, unselfish, polite, he taught me to realize importance of education, to love nature, art, music, to help people who needed that. I always wanted to make my parents happy, I thank them very much for everything beautiful, valuable they gave me during my childhood.
Thanks for a great article!

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tukiet
said on October 28, 2014

Hi. My family has 2 childs. Me and my younger brother. Maybe ” The birth order theory” can be true in my family. I was born in period time that my family was difficulty. But i always try to be perfect and do anything correctly. My younger brother has life comfortable, food, good condition for learning, growing… But he dont work hard.

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Quangbvhm
said on November 02, 2014

The birth order affect personal character or not? I’m not sure, parent take care their children, they can’t take care one than the other. I have two sisters, second sister have better life than first sister, may be she has a lot of good luck in her life. I always wish my first sister more happiness.

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Orante
said on December 08, 2014

I’m really excited about your program. It is exactly what I was looking for. Really very nice; even the background music. thanks so much

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nguyenthuy
said on December 21, 2014

Hi ,
Im a youngest child in my family . I think the birth order theory is true in a period time not all of time .When i was child , i gave something from parent while my sister and brother were not . That why i was not independent and selfish . But when i am older , i dont want to give priority so i changed . Beside , i was born in a poor family so all of us have to be hard work and request to live and be independent as good as possible . I think its a condition to make me today . Poverty is sometimes good to train a person with a pressure , spirit , survive ... ,how to make money to live or anything to survive . I learn about it from my family condition . Even though , im the youngest girl in my family , im the strongest . And I think the family had affected in you but more than in youself . When you grow , you will choose to who you want and how you are . it is not depend on your family too much . Thanks !

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AminBcc
said on June 11, 2015

Hi, I have been only-child in my family and I agree with the birth order theory; I am a good speaker with each other

Abdeljalil's avatar
Abdeljalil
said on June 11, 2015

hello everybody here. first of all thank you so much for sharing such an important topic; from which we can retake things in other way. this theory seems to be a global one simply because it has it’s impacts in all over the world. it just differs from one society to another in the way by which it’s taken. in Morocco, taznakht, parents behave in different ways towards their children according to their birth order.

Abdeljalil's avatar
Abdeljalil
said on June 11, 2015

in my opinion, the oldest child and the youngest are the ones who benefit more from their family.in one hand the oldest is always seen as the most prudent and sapient one and the most one loyal to his family. in the other hand the youngest is always considered as the wanton; while the other siblings have less choices than the two.

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Jennylee
said on June 11, 2015

I think birth order may not be the most important factor. Personalities are concerned about the parents’ love and the time children spend with their parents. The child who gets more love has much more chance to develop good personality. Parents are the best teachers of everyone!

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peace
said on August 14, 2015

my parents have two children. i’m the oldest, may be birth order theory affect me so much. I’m always think that i’m the first child so i do everything seriously to make a good mirror for my youngest sister. Sometimes i have to be share my things for her because i’m her oldest sister, it is abnegation and happiness too. on the contrary, my youngest sister live for her freedom, she do everything within her ability and don’t try so much like me. This may help her so much in building self-confident character and as a result she is very successful in life.

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on July 28, 2016

Life has difficulty, challenge and suffering. Each of us is cared for, taught and educated to become a good person of family and community. We have time to learn and train. We grow up in physique and spirit. Family is full of love. We see the love and the responsibility of the parents for their family and children and each other. We see the love and the responsibility of the children for their family and parents and each other. We have beautiful good thing in family and community. When we are away from our home we miss our home. When we are away from our native land we miss our native land. Family is a peaceful place. Native land is a peaceful place.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on July 28, 2016

I have 4 siblings, 2 sisters and 2 brothers, but the oldest sibling /sister is died before some years after she births 3 girls.  My number is 5 between my siblings, after me one girl.
I think that this theory is fits for the western communities more eastern communities.
For the eastern communities and the third world in generally the families be big of numbers from children and the male oldest caring responsibility outside home while the female oldest caring responsibility inside home and all members of family lives a difficult life.
God bless you

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on July 28, 2016

So sorry, I mean that I have 5 siblings, 3 sisters and 2 brothers .......
God bless you again

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Mabel Estrella
said on July 30, 2016

Good morning everybody!!!

I’m a middle son, and I agree with the theory because I try to develop the ways or skills to being more competitive and show me to other people and achieve the attention.

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DangNguyen
said on July 30, 2016

Nice weekend Spotlight,
I think this theory is not totally right to me. I am a middle child in a three-sibling family but I am a programmer and I do not have any abilities in the arts, such as drawing, painting, playing instruments, etc. However, peace, as the theory said, is right to a middle child like me. Everyday after work, I just want to come back my home as soon as possible in order to make the most of serene environment that my family bring to. It extremely helps me relax after a hard-working day :)
Thank you for your article!

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Severino Ramos da Silva
said on August 16, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Tuesday 16, August 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid and Rena Dam:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and leaners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Yes, I have. I have got four sisters and one brother.
I am the third order position of the my parents.
Yes, I think. Because my parents did not have a good condition to give birth to six children. So, I and my siblings suffered so much to grow and to grow up.
As I told you in the one previous comment at the spotlight programme, I was born from a poor couple in Pernambuco countryside. Afert, I change to live here in this big city São Paulo where I live now. For that reason, I and my siblings had difficuties to achieve our goal of life. But, thanks GOD we got it with our struggle and hard work and in the honest way.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil