Many parents are amazed that, despite having similar genetics and growing up in the same environment, their children can be vastly different. According to philosopher and psychiatrist Alfred Adler, birth order may be playing the biggest role in your child's development and personality. During the early 1900's, Adler established several theories about how environment influences a child's personality. His birth order theory describes specific characteristics of each child, depending on whether he's the youngest, oldest or somewhere in the middle.
If your youngest child has been accused of being the class clown at preschool, you can blame it on his birth order. Adler's theory states that youngest children are often the life of the party, as they are used to getting lots of attention from parents and older siblings. Although the baby of the family may be viewed as spoiled or selfish, Adler says he'll also be confident and, throughout adulthood, may be able to use his desire for attention to his advantage by livening up any room.
According to Adler, if you've ever forgotten to pick up your middle child from Grandma's house, this is typical, since middle children tend to get lost in the shuffle. Middle children are often even-tempered and sometimes accept social injustices without a fight. However, when it comes to attention, they can be fierce competitors. A middle child may try out for the school play or try his hand at playing a musical instrument as a way to stand out from the crowd.
Adler's theory says that the oldest child tends to be the most dependable and responsible. An oldest child may try to parent his younger siblings by reminding them to get dressed for school or to stop playing with their food. Parents often have high expectations for their oldest child and may want him to set a good example for the younger children. Oldest children may be perfectionists and often try to excel on the sports field or academically.
Only children are used to being the center of their parents' universe, and Adler says this often leads to toddlers being spoiled. An only child may prefer one parent over the other and could create rivalries by saying, "But Mom lets me do that," when his father tells him to stop jumping on the furniture. Only children tend to enjoy adult attention and struggle with peer relationships, which may make the transition to school difficult. Only children are often mature for their age and can be very creative.