Birth order (whether you’re eldest, middle or youngest) appears to impact personality development in Western countries from past research, but a new study in a non-Western country (Indonesia) found no impacts, suggesting the effect may be cultural or linked to the difference in size of families.

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In Korea tradition, when the parents get old, they live with the oldest son. There is intense pressure for him to be successful.


I’ve still got family in Vietnam, and birth order seems much more important there than in America. There is even a different name for eldest sibling, or eldest uncle, middle, youngest etc. Age difference continues into later generations too, like the children of the eldest uncle ‘outrank’ the children of the youngest, even if the children of the youngest are themselves older than the children of the eldest uncle. I think this is true in China as well I suppose importance =!= personality, but it just seems to matter much more there.


I couldn’t site the study, but one of Malcolm gladwell’s works (I think ‘tipping point’) referred to the fact that, while there is a trend for ‘birth order personalities’, those only persist within the family context. Outside of that context, the relationship was weaker and birth order wasn’t particularly predictive of personality in school/work/with friends.


There’s an often referenced study which found that successive male sons were increasingly likely to be homosexual. I’ve often wondered if this is, rather than genetic, more to do with the cultural expectations on firstborn sons, and the effect that may have on them ‘coming out of the closet’.


Or the first study was wrong.