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Does Birth Order Determine Your Success?

Personal Insights

Siblings often have different personalities, and their places in the birth order may be partially responsible. We tend to associate first-born siblings with leadership and success and “the baby of the family” with rule-breaking and humor.

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.

First-Born Children are Natural Leaders

First-born children have a special place in the family hierarchy, as they come into the world as their parents’ sole priority. They are more inclined to be pampered, indulged, and grow up with a sense that they sit at the center of the family.

Firstborns are commonly more inclined to assume leadership positions and tend to run their companies conservatively, improving things by, say, streamlining product lines, simplifying distribution routes and generally making sure everything is running smoothly. Eldest children are known to have higher IQs and be more cautious, dutiful, and earn higher salaries1.

Middle-Born Children Are Great Mediators

Kids who are born in the middle tend to be less well defined in their personalities than their older or younger siblings. Middle-borns may adopt the behaviors of the biggest siblings or the littlest ones, or find some behavioral blend of the two.

Research found that middle-born kids are more relationship-focused, which bodes well for their careers, since the heart of nearly all jobs is relationship management involving connecting, negotiating, and brokering peace between differing sides.

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 therefore possibly more successfully.

Middle children are social beings, skilled negotiators, and good team players who think outside the box, resisting conformity. Famous examples of these are Martin Luther King Jr., Charles Darwin, and Abraham Lincoln.

Last-Born Children Take More Risks

The last-born child of the family, has to contend with being the smallest and youngest of the bunch. This makes the youngest more inclined to be rebellious, funnier, more intuitive and more charismatic than their older siblings. They typically 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 activities than their older siblings, resulting in bigger risk-taking in the professional world. Last-borns are more likely to reinvent a company entirely, rather than simply reforming or improving it. Last-borns tend to be more relaxed and easy-going.

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. It is common for the youngest to have the ability to get inside other people’s heads. You can’t write a powerful poem without truly understanding what moves your potential readers.

Obviously these patterns are not absolute. A firstborn child can be a risk-taking wisecracker, and the baby of the family could be serious and leadership-driven. Though your birth order and the environment you grew up in might have an impact on your personality and your goals, your hierarchy among your siblings will not define you as a person.


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