By Reem Abdalla (@Reem096)
As the eldest child, I was my parent’s guinea pig, their trial and error. They experienced everything for the first time with me. Got excited when I did unrecognizable baby sounds. Ran behind me with a camera at every step I would take. Mom always told me they were so fascinated by me that the entire family would take me to play.
Being the first child has many pros, however it also has its cons. A first child means all the responsibilities of the younger siblings automatically is seen as your own. Anything that the younger siblings did either good or bad is reflected on the eldest child and they always get reprimanded on it.
The eldest child has to be the role model for all the younger siblings and in my case the entire paternal cousins since I am the eldest of the group. Therefore, the eldest child has enormous pressure put on him/her from the moment they are born.
In my case, I had to fight for everything I wanted. My parents were scared to make decisions and used to think a million time before making one. As for my sister, she had it much easier as my parents had seen results in me. For example, I was not allowed to go out with friends in high school. My parents used to refuse without any reason. I am sure now that they were scared of letting go. Keeping me around them means they have more control on the teenager I was then.
Would my life have been any different if I was the middle or the youngest child? I was then interested to learn more about birth order and if it makes a difference in a person’s characteristics and traits.
Some experts believe that birth order is an important tool in shaping an adult. After digging into research, I found that the birth order concept was first developed by Alfred Adler. He developed an overview for five major birth order positions: only, oldest, second, middle, and youngest child. Each one of these orders has its own personality traits, ingrained psychological issues, and effects later in life.
According to Adler’s classifications, the only child is the center of attention. Since they are the only child, they usually become over protected, spoiled and have problem with sharing. While the eldest child is usually seen as “the responsible” one. High expectations are always expected of them and they are given responsibilities at a younger age. As a result they become authoritarian.
Second child is usually the peacemaker of the family. They are more competitive and want to take over the eldest child. They may become rebellious. Adler classified the middle child as they are “sandwiched” in between their siblings. They might feel under privileged and insignificant. Also may be even-tempered, have a “take it or leave it” attitude. Middle children may also have trouble finding a place or become a fighter of injustice.
Youngest child is the baby of the family. Always wants to be bigger than the others. They may have huge plans that never work out. Since they are the youngest they can stay the “baby” as responsibilities are usually given to the older siblings. They are frequently spoiled.
I was fascinated at how Adler has explained the personalities so correctly and to the point. As the eldest child, I always wanted to be in charge and take care of the rest of my siblings. I guess this is what I learnt to do at a younger age when given the responsibility of my sibling’s actions to be treated as my own.
Will I ever want to be any other birth order? I would have loved to be any other birth order to take the pressure off me for a millisecond. However, I know that the pressure is never off when it comes to parents. They always expect more of their children. Therefore, the eldest child I will always be.
May 2011’s issue:
Reem aims through her quarterly column to explore issues in society and discuss emerging new trends. Listen to other people’s thought and view their perspectives about the subject. Then raise questions and form unbiased conclusions about it.