Term Paper: Effects of Birth Order

By | April 28, 2011

Sample Term Paper

Starting with the Austrian psychiatrist Adler, there were many further attempts at classifying birth order as a system of development capable of being evidenced by empirical data.

Adler was adamant that Neurosis, a functional disease of the mind that causes distress, was linked to birth order and suggested several classifications in children by way of identifying the differences in their personalities, ideologies, intelligence and sexuality (Adler, 1964). According to him, firstborns, who are treated with more love and compassion than children later born may have different developmental cycles as a result. The factors he suggested that may influence development included the difference in the level of importance given by parents to their subsequent children, with a later child effectively dethroning an earlier child, special attention and pampering of only children, sibling rivalry as a result of difference in ages, the altogether number of children and the parents’ relationship and changing circumstances over time. Adler could very well be called a pioneer in considering not only the latter as a developmental influence but also the effects of siblings in relation to other siblings and the order in which they were born. His theories regarding the order are as follows.

The Only Child has to face everything the parents have to throw at him alone. Usually, he is cherished more than others and is thus taken special care of as he is brought up, being spoilt and attended to at a distinguishably higher degree. His parents may be anxious for his safety and comfort, thus affecting his behavior and development as he grows along. At the same time, if the parents are harsh and abusive, the child would have to bear it all alone as well.

The First Child is the first born, and is treated especially as if he is the only child until the second comes along. With all the attention now transferred to the new addition, the first child effectively gets dethroned and has to do with the sudden decrease in attention and love. As a result, he might engage in occasional attention-seeking outbursts and tantrums to fight for the throne again. More often than not, these outbursts are dismissed and refuted and result in a reaction that may be one of remorse and withdrawal or antagonistic and rebellious at the hands of the first child depending on his tendencies. If not handled appropriately they may elevate into characteristics later on in adulthood. Due to this reason, first children tend to be more problematic than those born later. They are often more solitary as well and prefer to develop more as introverts as opposed to extroverts as opposed to their siblings.

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