How Does Birth Order Impact Career Success?

Updated: November 12, 2022 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Have you ever been stereotyped based on your birth order? Perceived birth order traits can affect and impact our psychology, IQ, and personality characteristics.

It’s been said that firstborns are most likely to be the focus of the family and that later-born kids (like the middle-born children or second-born children) are often neglected by parents.

On the other hand, how popular is the notion that the youngest sibling or single children are the most spoiled members of the family?

So if you’re wondering, “How does birth order impact career success?” or you’re curious if Birth Order Theory holds any weight, we must first understand the reliability and relevance to us in this century.

What Is the Birth Order Theory?

This theory refers to how the order in which a child is born into the family affects their personality characteristics and behavior. 

For example, first-born and second-born kids are each expected to have different traits based on being the eldest and middle children respectively. 

For a long time, psychologists believed that there was a link between differences in birth order and individual psychology. It is a common belief that our birth position affects our individual characteristics and career types. This notion has educational and colloquial roots. 

Is There Truth to Birth Order?

Birth order theories have been around for a while. People have found some merit in differences by birth order and drawn conclusions based on them.

For example, some research states that first-born kids measure slightly higher on the intelligence scale because their educational attainment is higher.

Another controversial theory is the Confluence Model Theory. According to the Confluence Model Theory, the average intelligence in a family declines as the number of kids increases due to less intellectual stimulation with each new kid. 

Since parents tend to be stricter with their first-born children and are more likely to give them their undivided attention, they are expected to be more mature and have prestigious career types. However, this can also be viewed as causal mechanisms for the career choices they make. 

Confluence Model Theory revolves around this logic. Though there is some merit in birth order theory, research has found that some birth order stereotypes aren’t true

Psychotherapist Sarah Greenberg is a curious skeptic who says there isn’t enough evidence to make sweeping generalizations on professional achievements and the order in which one was born. She believes that a lifetime of experiences has a greater bearing on how an individual turns out.

What About Single-Child families?

Another facet of this theory revolves around the lives of single kids and their mental health issues, which is a perspective we don’t hear about very often.

In some cases, single children who lack parental attention look for brothers or sisters to form relationships with. In other cases, kids are pampered and given excess attention by their parents, making them more stubborn and used to getting what they want. 

Only children can feel neglected in larger families. We sometimes see them addressing their loneliness and mental health issues by looking for emotional stability.

Does Birth Order Affect Personality?

Psychologists around the globe have performed many studies to try and satisfy their curiosity about birth order.

According to Alfred Adler, an Austrian professor of psychology and psychotherapist from the 20th century, eldest kids tend to have a responsible and positive attitude. 

They come into the world as sole princesses or princes and grow up to be capable enough to play a leadership role. Since first-born children don’t share their parents unless more children follow, they are the prized center in the familial orbit.

Adler also stated that middle-borns are mostly neglected by their parents, which explains why middle-born children are said to be a behavioural blend of the eldest and youngest kids.

The youngest kids are often referred to as “baby of the family” and become the most motivated among their brood.

Of course, it’s important to note that birth order doesn’t account for how prenatal environments and personality characteristics affect the life outcomes of individuals.

Can Birth Order Determine Your Career?

A birth order trait we associate with eldest children is strong leadership skills, while the last-born is associated with humour and rule-breaking.

Although science hasn’t backed up these claims, some psychologists believe that birth order has effects on the career the individual chooses. 21st century observations concede that there are birth order trends but that they only impact a part of our experience.

Psychology professor and psychotherapist Sarah Greenberg states: “The way birth order impacts our future, according to research, pales in comparison to other factors like gender, or what zip code we were born in.” 

Rodica Damien, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Personality Development and Success Lab at the University of Houston agrees. Damien says that the effects on career due to birth order have been blown out of proportion and that birth order only had a small effect on educational attainment.

The Niche-Finding Model

The Niche-Finding Model essentially states that differences by birth order end up affecting the professions kids choose.

For example, according to the Niche-Finding Model, first-borns fill the leadership-oriented niche and are more likely to pursue scientific careers, whereas later-born children are more rebellious and tend to have creative life goals.

Firstborns Are Made for Success

First-born siblings have a special seat in their home. They are likely pampered and raised in environments that make them feel they sit at the center of the family.

According to research, it turns out that first-born kids are the most likely to earn six figures and hold a top executive position among workers with siblings.

Interestingly, though, first-born women are 13% more responsible, sincere, and ambitious than first-born sons. 

Studies of CEOs showed that firstborns will manage their companies conventionally by “streamlining product lines or simplifying distribution routes.” A 2007 survey suggested that 43% of corporate chiefs were the eldest kids.

A smaller survey claimed that eldest kids are 55% more likely to be chief executives or owners of organizations or companies with a mogul status.

According to Scientific American, first-borns operate more conservatively because they are used to agreeing with the opinions of their parents and don’t have a problem with the status quo they operate in.

Middle Siblings Are Team Players

When considering sibling positions, the notion is that middle-borns don’t have personalities as well-defined as the older kids.

Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, believes that middle siblings model themselves on the behavior of the oldest sibling or the youngest ones. They could develop typically adult characteristics like the first-born or rebellious personality characteristics like the youngest kid.

Kluger suggests that the role of birth order in a middle-born’s future may not lead to them being CEOs or comedians.

However, middle-borns are more social than their kin and are skilled negotiators who think freely and choose creative career types. Some also choose community service fields like law enforcement or fire-fighting.

Last-Born Kids Are Rule-Breakers

Last-borns and later-borns have a greater tendency to take bigger risks in their career paths as a result of having to contend with being the weakest in the family. A study revealed that the youngest kids are easy-going, more relaxed, funnier, and aren’t ones to be affected by adult worries. 

This could be why some entrepreneurial last-borns manage their companies differently when compared to first-born leaders and entrepreneurs. Last-borns tend to take more risks and don’t operate as conservatively.

Numerous studies reveal that later-born children are more likely to choose creative careers, like being writers, comedians, or artists. Kluger relates this to the ability of the youngest-born to delve deep inside the head of the audience.

What Are Common Stereotypes of Birth Order Traits?

It’s important to take these theories with a grain of salt because notions of birth order have been re-enforced relentlessly by pop culture.

This does not necessarily mean that we should throw the concept out the window, but birth order is only one of many aspects and factors that shape our life outcomes, according to Greenberg

Greenberg agrees that our prenatal environment, relationships with our caregivers, life experience, and who our siblings are mold us into who and what we become.

These are the following common birth order notions according to Yahoo Life Shopping. If you’re asking, “ How does birth order impact career success?” then consider how these traits translate into the professional sphere.

Common Personality Characteristics Associated with Birth Orders

The Firstborn

  • Responsible
  • High IQ
  • Big ego
  • Leadership skills
  • Jealous

The Middle Child

  • Social
  • Individualistic
  • Peace-keeping
  • Desire to please people

The Last-Born

  • Rule breakers
  • Relaxed
  • Rebellious
  • Creative thinkers
  • Humorous 

Signs Your Birth Order is Impacting You at Work

To understand which birth order patterns you may be manifesting in the workplace, you need to understand what you’re good at.

Did you know that workers with siblings are more likely to have job satisfaction? According to Greenberg, an inventory of one’s strengths is necessary to understand and work around them. 

If you’re displaying positive patterns, then you probably won’t notice them. It is easier to notice patterns when they are not working for you or are hampering your career progress and life goals.

A first-born will naturally have leadership qualities, a middle-born will act as a great negotiator or peacemaker, and the youngest will make their own rules and think freely. If you see one of these strengths in yourself, it is a valuable asset in your career toolbox to be utilized for your success. 

If you’ve been wondering, “How does birth order impact career success?” then keep in mind that patterns or traits influenced by birth order are simply one aspect of our lives.

There may be differences in siblings or personality differences as a result of the sibling constellation. However, the deeper truth is that it does not determine individual personalities, the future of children, or paths from birth. 

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