Does Birth Order Predispose One in Life (and Is It Iron-Clad)?

Oprah Winfrey more than fulfills expectations of a First-Born (plus, she’s got a ton of talent).

The ranks of President and the US Congress are comprised, primarily, of first-borns. Conversely, protesters on a picket line–or union stewards–are often middle children? Why? They like to shake up the status quo. See the Time article below to discover some fascinating data.

I’m third born in my family and according to birth order advocates, that’s supposed to signify something. Simply speaking, I’m allegedly the one who seeks a higher order in life, like that other third born, Woodrow Wilson who established the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations (OK, maybe not that grandiose, but I like to think I do my small part to improve life on this planet.)

The following characterization of birth order’s impact on children in any given family is one I remember from college. In a nutshell, it goes like this: The first born is a responsible, serious high-achiever who sets the standard for siblings to follow; the second is fun, playful and less concerned with achievement (not as driven since the spotlight‘s on the first); the third-born is an idealist who wants to make the world a better place; and the fourth begins anew the cycle (so that child is a responsible high achiever and more serious, too).

As third born in my family, I like to think I fit the bill, but I only do so–in some respects.

For there are other prescient variables that affect a child’s development. For instance, parents play a weighty role in a child’s development. My father early on set the standard that “males rule” in all areas of importance (academics and sports, primarily). In my family, my two brothers were high achievers, topping the charts in almost every category (scholastic, All-State athletes, highest Boy Scout and Catholic awards) while we girls (I have a sister) were pretty much assigned facilitator status.

In other words, no expectations were set for us beyond “Go to college, meet a suitable mate, marry and raise a family.”

I chafed against the inequity that saw women portrayed as poor cousins to men and railed against it (some third-borns become fighters). Why the gender discrimination in my supposedly progressive household (my father was a college graduate)? I can only believe he was raised by those who had the same biased beliefs against women.

Then, too, many of his era shared his beliefs, for the women’s movement was in its infancy.

My father raised “his boys” to believe they’d climb to the stratosphere in life, and they did: One went to West Point and became a Green Beret assigned to Korea and Viet Nam. He later left the Army to get his law degree at the University of Michigan and he practices law today. The other graduated from Brown University and Yale Medical School (Brown didn’t have one yet). Today he heads up the Department of Neurology at a major hospital complex.

My sister and I became professionals, too. She became a social worker while I taught public school for 30 years (making my world a better place?) When I retired from that, I became a realtor, but that career (though financially thrilling) never fulfilled me in the way teaching had. As a result, I left at the top of my game (before the market tanked) to become a freelance writer. Today, I write this blog to encourage others to overcome life’s difficulties (shades of 3rd. born again?)

Oh, and regarding my brother, the second born who now heads up a Neurology department at a major hospital? In an interesting twist, while at Brown, he was deemed “Party Animal” by his fraternity, meaning: Yes, he piled up points in his GPA, but at the same time, he fulfilled expectations of his birth order in the family (second born is playful/loves a party).

Now, is all this mere serendipity or is there something really “scientific” going on here, when it comes to birth order?

My own two daughters are ten years apart in age and that fact probably predisposes them to act out the birth order characteristics of “only children.” In other words, both bear characteristics of first-borns, and I must say: I think they exhibit those traits.

It’ll be interesting to see going forward, for my older daughter has twin 6-year-old’s, boys who are already competing with one another on hockey teams. Do twins follow the same first/second pattern (though they come out at practically the same time)? Are they both first-borns? How does twinning play out in birth order? And is their third born really a second born (because he sure seems to fit the bill)?

The following is a link to an amazing article on birth order in Time Magazine. It details fascinating characteristics of birth-order, but remember: they’re boiler-plate description. A family’s unique personality will override and impact the prescribed order of things….always.

Now, how about you? Do you and/or siblings fit the pattern? Do your children? Comment please by hitting buttons below. And if you want to see an egret that’s referenced in the first paragraph of page 2 of the Times article on birth order, click on the following link where I’ve resurrected an earlier picture of this bird stalking dinner in a marsh in Rhode Island:

Then, go to the Times Birth Order story for that eye-opening information. I was flabbergasted that each successive birth is a couple of points lower in IQ. Good thing I wasn’t tenth, but how does that explain the witty Stephen Colbert (youngest of 11?),8599,1672715-1,00.html

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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