Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Do You Fall In the Family Line Up?

By Jeannie Watt

Are you an overachiever? A compromiser? A wild child?
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates the  age-old stereotypes concerning birth order personalities are based in fact. The oldest child is more likely to be over achieve. The youngest child is more likely to rebel.  I just wonder why it took researchers so long to make it official.

The reason I’m thinking about birth order is because the first book of my first trilogy, Too Many Cooks? has been released this month and the series is about three siblings. The oldest--the heroine of the first book--is super responsible while the youngest--the hero of the last book--is a laid back renegade. I didn’t set out to make them that way, but that’s how they turned out. I unconsciously gave them characteristics I’ve observed in oldest and youngest children. 

Since writing the books, I did a lot of reading about birth order (many people would do it the other way around, but not me) and discovered that because they are older and stronger, the first born tend to  use high power tactics—i.e. they overpower their younger siblings, physically or through sheer strength of will and intimidation tactics. Middle and younger children use low power tactics—humor and negotiation. This is why the eldest children are not always at the top of their game in the cooperation department, whereas the younger children are quite good at reading others and acting accordingly. Youngest children can be downright manipulative.

There are, of course, other factors that figure into personality besides birth order, such as family stability and number of children, so birth order does not mean your personality and occupation are predestined.

Take for instance my brother and me. I am an artist and a storyteller. I studied geology at a time when there were no jobs available and therefore didn’t get a job as a geologist—not one that lasted anyway. My brother is an engineer and has an actual retirement fund. He’s the youngest. I’m the oldest, but it seems like it should be the other way around considering our lives and occupations. I am an overachiever, however, and he did quit his job briefly to go into business with the man who invented the plastic hubcap—but that’s another story.

Here are some general birth order characteristics I gleaned from various sources:
Responsible first born children do not
get accidentally pregnant...

Oldest child
Over achiever
Tend to develop type A personalities
Intense fear of failure
Tend to stick to the straight and narrow (fear of failure)
Higher IQs
Many engineers, lawyers, surgeons and CEOs tend to be older children. Congress has a disproportionate amount of older children.

Middle children cooperate
with others...until
they find out they're being
lied to..

Middle Child
Keeper of the peace
More peer oriented—forges strong bonds with friends
Less tethered to family
Excellent people skills—was both babysat and babysitter
Feels lost in shuffle
Tend to take riskier jobs than older children.

Laid back rebel
tries to teach uptight
neighbor how to loosen up,
with surprising results...
for him.

Risk takers
Loose cannon
Rebellious but also easy going (which perfectly describes my hero in Just Desserts)
More likely to be artists, comedians, adventurers, or fire fighters.

Tend to have the same characteristics as the older children, since that is exactly what they are. 

Is it coincidence that the majority of my close friends (Ellen, for one) and my husband are all middle children and Undercover Cook, the middle book of my trilogy, is my favorite by a wee margin? What can I say? I’m a sucker for middlers. Especially alpha middlers--like Ellen.

My question d’jour: does your personality match your birth order? How about the rest of your family?

Up for grabs is a copy of Undercover Cook. If you’d like to test out a chapter, I have the first chapter of Undercover Cook posted on my blog

Looking forward to hearing from you!
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