Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Management Studies

Birth Order Effect on Borderline Personality Disorder, Deliberate Self Harm and Depression in Young Adulthood

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Management Studies

Birth Order Effect on Borderline Personality Disorder, Deliberate Self Harm and Depression in Young Adulthood

Article excerpt

The study of birth order was started over a century ago by Sir Francis Galton. Later Alfred Adler (1956) proposed the effects of birth order on human personality characteristics, which led to an increased motivation of scientists toward birth order studies. Different modalities of personality and human behaviors became the focus of research which included intelligence, achievements, mental ability, sexual orientation, etc. This debate on birth order characteristics later involved psychiatric illnesses such as obsessivecompulsive disorder (Ansari & Rehman, 2008), schizophrenia (Godarzi & Kianpoor, 2007) gender identity disorder, and somatization disorder (Birtchnell, 1971). But such association remains unclear due to lack of consideration of the confounding effects of family size. Research has shown that there is a stronger relationship of personality traits to the psychological birth order rather than the actual birth order. Adler ( 1908) believed that in a three-child family, the oldest child would be the most likely to suffer from neuroticism and substance addiction. Youngest children would tend to be overindulged, leading to poor social empathy. Consequently, the middle child, who would experience neither dethronement nor overindulgence, was most likely to develop into a successful individual yet also most likely to be a rebel. In early studies on birth order conducted by Adler, it was speculated that depression was more common among first and last born children due to the face that they tended to be dependent on achievement and support of others (Akande & Lester, 1994). Order of birth was also found to be related to neuroticism (Kaur & Dheer, 1982).

A further extension to the hypothesized relationship between birth order and a range of outcomes comes from Sulloway's family dynamics model (Sulloway, 1996; Sulloway and Zweigenhaft, 2010). This model assumes the fundamental aspects of the resource dilution hypothesis, and extends this to argue that children tend to occupy different niches within the family environment, and that they also attempt to differentiate themselves from one another in order to avoid direct inter-sibling competition. In his book Born to Rebel, Frank Sulloway suggests that birth order has strong and consistent effects on the Big Five personality traits. He says that firstborns are more conscientious, more socially dominant, less agreeable, and less open to new ideas compared to later bom. The only child has a need to be the focal point, the oldest takes on the role of a surrogate parent, and the youngest takes pleasure in being the baby of the family (Tramontana, 2009).

Research has demonstrated that due to higher expectations that are placed on the oldest child in a family, first-borns experience more guilt, anxiety, and difficulty in coping with stressful situations (Santrock, 2002).

This may explain the findings that first bom children are significantly more likely to be referred to clinics for treatment of psychological problems, including: hyperactivity, aggressiveness, noncompliance, delinquency, anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, social withdrawal and suicidal behaviors (Lahey et al., 1980). Overall, it seems that first bom experience more psychopathology.

Substantial evidence on self monitoring behaviour exist showing that first bom to be more susceptible than later bom to social pressure and first born women, when apprehensive, to be more strongly attracted than later-born women to the company of others, which makes first born to be higher on self-monitoring behavior.

Birth order was associated with both suicidal and self-injurious behavior, middle children being most likely to exhibit such behavior. Comparisons of birth order groups within gender found no significant differences in suicidal behavior between birth positions for males, however among females, middle children were much more likely to have attempted suicide (Kirkcaldy et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.