We've heard all the stereotypes about how being the youngest or oldest child can impact your personality, but how much truth is there in it? Rose Logan, consultant psychologist at LightHouse Arabia says, "I believe that nature and nurture are implicated in a child's development. Birth order is simply a part of the process of nurture and will not affect each child equally." However, there are certain characteristics that are often ascribed to each birth order, she says...
THE FIRST BORN
The first-born child may well be the first baby his or her parents have had very much to do with. And that has never been truer than here in Dubai where many people are raising families away from their wider family networks. How parents find their way through those early years is likely to impact how that first-born child's personality is shaped.
Authors on the subject suggest that the first-born may be reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious, controlling or an achiever and perfectionist. These will play out in their behaviours both in childhood but also later in life. Some first-borns maybe more cautious or anxious and may have issues separating from their parents, while others may be quite dominating and controlling of both adults and their peers.
The first-born often received their parent's undivided attention and financial resources as well as being the guinea pig for future siblings. Parents sometimes adopt very rigid routines and structures with their first child as it can help them feel more secure. Likewise, first time parents may be anxious or uncontained with little or no structure.
What to do: Recognising that how we choose to parent our child is likely to have an impact on how they behave and how their personality is shaped allows parents the opportunity to reflect on how they would like their child - and indeed their future adult child - to be and, hence, how they would like to raise them. This starts from birth and so thinking about this and having conversations with your partner even before your baby arrives can be very helpful.
A MIDDLE CHILD
Middle-born children are neither the oldest who had their parent's undivided attention (at least for a time), nor the baby who is doted over by all who come to visit. They have to carve their own path and are often people-pleasers, highly sociable, excellent negotiators and peacemakers. At times, they can also be attention-seeking and rebellious as they carve their path.
Being the middle child may not be a universal experience as their experience will depend on the gender of the other siblings, and the age difference.
What to do: As parents, if you can stay aware and alert to how your middle child is feeling and how their birth position may be driving or reinforcing behaviour (negative and positive), you can adapt your parenting and your interactions with them accordingly. One thing to note is that children who do not seem to be causing trouble and even seem to be displaying positive qualities, such as peacekeeping, may be struggling. For example, you might be that you need to have a conversation with your middle child about how responsibility for keeping the peace in the family is not their job.
THE YOUNGEST CHILD
By the time baby number three (or four or five!) comes along, parents will have their parenting style well honed. They may also be less anxious and more relaxed and certainly won't have the same amount of time to devote to following strict routines. The youngest child usually has to fit in with the others and can be quite free-spirited. They can be fun loving and outgoing, but they can also be self-centred and attention-seeking - older siblings are often told to look after younger siblings and to be kind and share with them, which can encourage this. On the other hand, as they have to fit in with others, youngest children tend to be more less complicated and more likely to go with the flow than the first-born.
What to do: Making sure that the youngest takes on some responsibility in the sibling dynamics and is not always the one in the right is an important task for parents. It is important for parents not to baby the youngest and to instil self-efficacy and independence in the same way as they would for an older child. Sometimes the youngest gets used to having things done for them either by parents or by their older siblings, which may seem great, but in the long term does not allow them to develop their own skills and self-concept.