By Chelsea Greenwood & Business Insider
- Siblings often have different personalities, and their places in the birth order may be partially responsible.
- First-born kids tend to be leaders, like CEOS and founders, and are more likely to achieve traditional success.
- Middle-born children often embody a mix of the traits of older and younger siblings, and they’re very relationship-focused.
- Last-born individuals are used to fighting for attention and respect and aren’t afraid to break the rules and redefine success.
- We tend to associate first-born siblings with leadership and success and “the baby of the family” with rule-breaking and humor. And while science doesn’t universally back up those assumptions, some experts have found that one’s place in the birth order can have a lasting impact on professional success.
1. First-born kids are poised for success
First-born children have a special place in the family hierarchy.
“[They] come into the world as their parents’ sole princess or prince,” wrote Jeffrey Kluger, author of the book “The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us” in an article for “Time.” “They are more inclined to be pampered, more inclined to be indulged, more inclined to grow up with a sense that they sit at the center of the familial orbit.”
They also may be inclined to assume leadership positions. In a 2007 survey of 1,582 chief executives, 43% reported that they are the first born. Another, smaller survey revealed that first-borns are 55% more likely than the rest of the population to be founders of companies or organizations.
“Studies of CEOs have shown that those who are first-borns tend to run their companies conservatively – improving things by, say, streamlining product lines, simplifying distribution routes and generally making sure the trains run on time,” Kluger wrote in an article for TIME.
Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are all first-borns who went on to become successful CEOs.
Eldest children also tend to have higher IQs and be more cautious and dutiful, the New York Times reports, and they often earn higher salaries, according to study from CareerBuilder.
2. Middle-born children are team players
Kids who are born in the middle tend to be less well defined in their personalities than their older or younger siblings.
“They’re more of a puzzle,” Kluger wrote. “They may adopt the behaviors of the biggest siblings or the littlest ones – or they may find some behavioral blend of the two.”
Research from the University of Redlands in California found that middle-born kids are more relationship-focused, which bodes well for their careers.
“At the heart of nearly all jobs is that kind of relationship management – connecting, negotiating, brokering peace between differing sides,” Kluger wrote in TIME. “Middle siblings may not wind up as the corporate chiefs or the comedians, but whatever they do, they’re likely to do it more collegially and agreeably – and, as a result, more successfully – than other siblings.”
3. Last-born kids rewrite the rules
When you’re the last-born child of the family, you have to contend with being the smallest and weakest of the bunch.
“That makes them more inclined to be rebellious (the better to overturn the system),” Kluger wrote. “It also makes them funnier, more intuitive and more charismatic than their older siblings. If you can’t use strength and size to prevent yourself from getting pushed around, you learn to disarm with charm and to pay attention to other people’s thoughts and motivations in order to stay one step ahead of them.”
Younger siblings are more likely to participate in high-risk sports than their older siblings, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Guildford College. This translates to bigger risk-taking in the professional world, according to Kluger: “Last-borns are more likely to blow up the tracks and buy new trains – reinventing a company entirely, rather than simply reforming or improving it.”
Another study found that last-borns are more relaxed, easy-going, and funnier.
“Multiple studies have shown that the baby of the family is likelier than other siblings to be a writer or artist or especially a comedian – Stephen Colbert, the youngest of 11 siblings, is a great example of this,” Kluger wrote. “All this, again, speaks to the last-born’s ability to get inside other people’s heads. You can’t write a powerful poem if you don’t deeply understand what moves your potential readers.”