There are both disadvantages and
advantages to being the first born child in your family, as well as the second, the middle, and the last. For example, if you're the baby of the family, you might have gotten away with everything, but you also had to deal with hand-me-downs. And the same is true for all the benefits of being the oldest sibling — with all those perks came their fair share of disadvantages too.
As an adult, you might not notice these ups and downs as much as you did when you were a kid, but that doesn't mean your birth order didn't shape you in some way. There are plenty of traits that we, as a society, alway connect with being the oldest, or the middle child, or the youngest. But that said, science doesn't always agree.
birth order might have a slight impact, but there has been no definitive evidence that it significantly influences personality," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "Nonetheless, in some specific family situations being the firstborn could have impacted your adult success (or lack of it) in major ways."
That doesn't mean, however, that anything's set in stone. "It’s important to note that birth order sets a stage and an environment but does not guarantee how you will become," says clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of
The Web radio show. "Genetic personality traits, family dynamics, parental relationship, the number of children in the family, and the difference in ages all have a significant bearing on the impact of being the first born."
it's hard to deny some of perks. Here are a few ways experts say being the oldest may have helped you out in life.
You May Be The Assertive One
As the first born, you had to interact with your parents in a way that your younger siblings never did: you were the first to face them alone. And you may have had to forge the way for your own life.
"At various points in [your] psychosocial development, [you had] to learn how to push back against the control of [your] parents in order to become [your] own person and form [your] own identify," Rhonda Milrad, a relationship therapist and founder of
RelationshipUp, tells Bustle.
It's this push back that may have taught you how to be assertive, as well as how to speak to authority. And that's a skill that's likely coming in handy now that you're an adult.
While science isn't always clear when it comes to the benefits of being first born, it's often easy to pick out the oldest kid in the family because they're the most mature.
And that has a lot to do with the expectations placed on older kids as they grow up. "In my experience from working with hundreds of families over the decades, parents often put special pressure on oldest siblings,"
child psychiatrist Scott Carroll, MD tells Bustle. "Parents often need the oldest child to mature faster and be more self-sufficient to reduce the parental work load so the parent can focus on younger siblings." Did you play the role of a second or third parent while you were growing up? If so, it likely helped you mature.
Of course, there's the potential that it had the opposite effect. As Carroll says, "Sometimes the pressure to mature faster is beneficial, but other times it backfires and overwhelms the child." So really, it may have gone either way.
You Help Out Your Parents
The responsibility you feel for yourself as an adult also likely bleeds over into a sense of responsibility for your loved ones. "First borns tend to have a greater sense of responsibility to others, are more empathetic, more observant of parental distress and want to fix and repair situations," says Klapow. "They also tend to have a deeper level of confidence from their 'home base.' They tend to rely on their parents more so than siblings for emotional support."
Your Friends Know You've Got Their Back
You help your parents when they need it, but also have the ability — and the desire — to
watch out for your friends, too. As Klapow says, this stems from the aforementioned empathy, and your ability to notice when others are stressed out or anxious. "First born people tend to be 'fixers,' wanting to make better situations that have gone awry."
You're More Likely To Pursue Higher Education
Similarly, an ability to lead is a trait sometimes seen in first born children. And again, this has to do with playing the role of parent. "Most firstborn children, fairly or unfairly, are asked to help in the raising of their siblings," says Bennett. "While it can be annoying when you’re a child, it can create leadership and organizational skills that might not otherwise be developed. And, learning responsibility and other skills early can lead to success later in life. For example, one study showed firstborn children are
more likely to pursue higher education than their siblings." Pretty cool, right?
You're Pretty Great At Compromising
As the first baby in the family, you may have spent a good couple of years receiving undivided attention from your caretakers. "Until a sibling is born, [first borns] have no competition and their needs are paramount," says Milrad.
But then your little sister or brother came along, all that changed. "Once a sibling is born, they experience the shock of losing their coveted place (they are no longer the center of the world) and have to learn how to compromise, share, and cope with not getting their needs met," Milrad says. It's this transition, and suddenly having to learn how to share, that may have turned you into the excellent compromiser you are today.
You're More Likely To Go With The Flow
That drastic change — from only child to sibling — had other benefits, too. As
lifestyle strategist and therapist Stephanie Lee tells Bustle, having to cope with that shift in your family's dynamic might have taught you to be adaptable. Suddenly you had to share your toys, and your parents' love. So if you're one to go with the flow, this may be why.
You Likely Have A Thick Skin
Not to be dramatic or anything, but the first born may be the "practice kid," since your parents may have had
no idea what they were doing beforehand. "Kids aren’t born with an instruction manual and child rearing can be difficult," says Bennett. "Parents improve their skills with practice and through trial and error."
And that means they likely made some (very understandable) mistakes with you; ones they may not have made later on with your siblings. Your parents may have tried different parenting fads, trends, or experiments on you, Bennett says, but as a result, you may have developed a thicker skin.
You're In Tune With Your Emotions
You may have been an "experiment," as your parents learned how to navigate their new role. But being their one and only also meant you received undivided attention — and there were likely many benefits to that.
"One study showed that parents spend about 3,000
more hours of 'quality time' with firstborn children between the ages of four and 13," says Bennet. "This is even when parents intend to give 'equal time' to all children. So, as a firstborn, you’re more likely to have received your parents’ best time and attention, even after your siblings were born. If your parents were a positive influence, this extra attention likely brought enormous emotional and social benefits."
You Have High Expectations For Yourself
Do you have a long list of life goals? If so, this might have something to do with your birth order. By being the oldest, "you learn directly from adults — not siblings — so you expect more of your self," psychologist Douglas Weiss PhD, author of
tells Bustle. Since you compared yourself to adults, instead of other kids, you grew up faster, and probably have loftier goals for yourself as a result. Emotional Fitness,
You're An Excellent Problem Solver
As Weiss says, when you're the oldest you're often expected to know more than your siblings, which is why it makes sense that you'd turn into someone who's really great at solving problems. If you experienced this pressure at a young age, it's likely paying off now, as people always turn to you to make a decision.
You Look For Mature Relationships
If your childhood was one where your parents gave you attention and emotional support, that may have played a role in your desire to have
healthy, mature relationships today.
"These tendencies are not just during childhood," says Klapow. "This pattern of childhood behavior then shapes who we become as adults. So first borns tend to be able to navigate emotionally complex relationships, have more confidence in themselves, and are always looking for more mature relationships."
While you may crave mature relationships, you have no problem striking out on your own, either. As Lee says, first born children tend to be independent. This might have something to do with having to go it alone for a while, before your siblings came along. This is a similar trait found in only children, who often
show signs of independence.
therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle, "Having siblings means the attention wasn’t always on you." And that might be playing out now, in the person you are today. While there's nothing wrong with craving the spotlight, it can be a positive trait to also sit back, and let others have it.
You Make A Great Manager
Again, since you learned all about life from your parents, without a pesky younger sibling getting in the way, you likely picked up from an early age all sorts of managerial skills — especially if you were often expected to plan out and organize things for siblings, once they came along. As Weiss says, "I think overall your ability to task lead and motivate others is stronger ... because of being a first born."
That doesn't mean, however, that it's a bad thing if you don't recognize these traits in yourself. There isn't a ton of evidence supporting birth order, and how you ultimately turn out. In the end it's up to
you to shape who you become.