I am second born in my family, but the first girl, and the only girl, which feels a lot like being the firstborn. My siblings are all independent individuals but I have often found myself in charge of situations, especially in maintaining relationships between us or domestic roles.
In actual sense though, I am a middle child. Little research has been done on middle children because first, there is a conflict regarding what defines the middle child. Secondly, middle children’s characteristics are not as pronounced as those of first and lastborns. Lots of research has been done on firstborns and lastborns.
Firstborns are ‘second parents’
Research has shown that firstborn children take up the role of being ‘second parents’. In absence of their parents, it’s the firstborns that make the rules and because they have no other siblings to emulate, they emulate their parents.
Firstborn children are brought up feeling highly responsible which roots from being told by their parents to take care of their little sisters or brothers. They carry this sense of responsibility such that they feel the pressure to set an example for their younger siblings and perform well in school. They are also more inclined to pick strong and stable careers.
Further, parents are much more involved in bringing up firstborns than they are in bringing up lastborns, and therefore more involved in their children’s activities such as in career choice.
It’s therefore likely that firstborns become doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers, and such careers which come with increased responsibility, high performance, rules, and high educational demands. If you’d like to read about this some more, Adam Grant discusses it in his book Originals which I recently summarized.
Later-borns take on unconventional careers
On the other hand, later-born children tend to take up more unconventional careers. First, due to the rules set by the older siblings who emulate parents, the younger siblings tend to rebel. This kind of rebelling makes them to explore areas that are not very mainstream. For the later-borns, parents have already relaxed in parenting and are not as concerned as they were with their earlier borns. The later-borns are often left to their own devices and seek out their own paths.
In addition, mainstream careers usually have been taken by the earlier borns. Therefore, later-borns, in their rebellious nature, don’t want to be like their older siblings and tend to look for other alternatives.
Research has shown that while many firstborns tend to be involved in politics, win Nobel prizes and become managers at their places of works, laterborns tend to be comedians and artists, they are likely to excel in the creative industry where conformity is low.
Laterborns also grow up when their parents are more financially stable hence have more room to experiment and the resources to do so. In addition, laterborns are brought up by their siblings who have rules that are less strict than those of parents.
They receive a lot of protection from their siblings and therefore become more risk takers. They are not used of playing safe and tend to take more risks, which often leads to success in areas that reward risk taking such as entrepreneurship, creativity, comedy and the like.
So, are firstborns more likely to succeed in their careers?
This is still up for debate, but as the above discussion has shown, firstborns are more inclined to end up in formal careers while later-borns are more inclined to end up in creative careers. Firstborns easily take up responsibilities while lastborns are more experimental and risk taking which traits which thrive in the creative world.