September 12, 2012 ( — Can your birth order determine your role within your family? For generations, scientists have been trying to come to a decisive conclusion to this answer. Many experts believe that the youngest child of the family is also the happiest, but is there solid scientific evidence to prove this? Here is a look at the often debated topic of birth order, and whether the baby of the family truly is the happiest of all.

The Adlerian Theory

The 20th century psychologist Alfred Adler studied the topic of birth order extensively. A colleague of Sigmund Freud, Adler had many beliefs about how birth order affected one’s personality and role within a family. Alfred Adler believed that the youngest child was at an advantage over their elder siblings because they will try to teach their young sibling. Additionally, the youngest child is often spoiled, due to being the youngest offspring or the “baby.” Alfred Adler’s theory was controversial during the early part of the 20th century because there was no concrete data to support Adler’s theory.

However, Adler’s theory is not consistent across the board. Not all first-born children are determined go-getters, nor are all last-born children spoiled. Each family has its own unique dynamic, and each person has an individual personality. While Adler was not able to prove birth order’s affect on a person’s individual personality, there have been many other case studies on birth order.

The Berkeley University Birth Order Case Study

In 1999, Berkeley University conducted a study on the effects of birth order on the effects of birth order of the human personality and family dynamic. In this study, many intriguing points are mentioned and a stronger case for birth order was presented. Birth order helps to define your role in your family, and specifically among your siblings. The study indicates that siblings are “hardwired” by the upbringing and placement among the birth order of siblings. However, as children mature and begin to interact with others outside their home, social interaction with friends and colleagues can have a major influence on their personality.

Parental Investment also plays a major influence in the Berkeley University birth order study. The theory of Parental Investment is historically a Darwinian theory in which parents treat each child differently based upon multiple factors such as age, gender, and birth order. The Berkeley study even goes so far as calling this treatment discrimination. Sibling rivalry is a common factor in most families with multiple children; while birth order is believed to define your role in your family, Parental Investment also plays a major role. The way your parents treat you in direct correlation to your siblings can increase sibling rivalry, and cement your role in the family dynamic.

A More Realistic Approach

While birth order can influence family dynamics, it does not necessarily mold you into the person you will become. Your personality is unique and based on multiple factors such as upbringing, interests, and personal experiences. No one aspect of this study is the deciding factor on birth order. While Parental Investment can help cement your role within your family, this same role does not necessarily apply when you are out in the world. Personality is molded by many varying factors and not decided before birth. While the jury is still out on the topic of birth order, many people take a more realistic approach. Individuals can be happy regardless of their birth order.


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