Birth Order Traits and the Parents Who Create Them

Will these guys experience different personality traits based on birth order?

You know about the birth-order theory, right? The one that claims that there are definable personality traits which correlate to birth order?  Some people think it’s nonsense, but I personally think there’s something to it. And I think parenting philosophy plays a big role.

You see, our children arrived in three waves. The oldest in 2001, the middle three in 2007, and our little fella just five weeks ago. Even though our baby has only been around for a short while, I can already tell a big difference in the way he’s being raised as compared to the way the triplets were raised. And don’t even get me started on our first child. Her deal’s in its own galaxy.

To illustrate my point, I’ve listed seven different scenarios in which I compare how our parenting philosophy has evolved from the first child to the middle “child” (the triplets) to the last child.

Scenario 1: Pacifier Policy

First child: Under absolutely no circumstances should a pacifier ever be used. It’s a crutch needed only by parents who aren’t up to snuff.

Middle child: Pacifiers have their place, but will not be used unless a child is flat-out losing his or her marbles.

Last child: Three hours after we arrived home with our baby, he made a little ga-ga-type noise which sounded as if it could, possibly, morph into a cry. Which prompted me to turn to my wife and say “Where are the fucking passies?”

Scenario 2: Grounded Pacifiers

As this scenario implies, we eventually broke down and gave pacifiers to all of our children. Even our oldest. (My, how ideals can quickly crumble in the unforgiving face of reality…) But how to handle the situation when the pacifier falls to the ground?

First child: Contact biohazard unit to decontaminate pacifier, then send it to a CSI lab to make certain it’s DNA / germ free, at which point it’s officially deemed safe to reinsert into child’s mouth.

Middle child: Apply the prudent 10-second rule, then rinse thoroughly in warm water, at which point it’s officially deemed safe to reinsert into child’s mouth.

Last child: Apply the realistic 10-minute rule (perhaps longer if circumstances warrant), then wipe clean with shirt tail, at which point it’s officially deemed safe to reinsert into child’s mouth (assuming it didn’t land directly in fecal matter).

Scenario 3: Fussy Baby

First child: Hold and or rock the child until the episode has passed, regardless of how long it may last.

Middle child: Assuming you’re certain there is nothing medically wrong with your child, and although it may break your heart, there’s nothing wrong with letting your baby cry it out as long as your child is resting in a safe and comfortable position and you’re able to monitor the situation closely.

Last child: Assuming that there is nothing medically wrong with your child — two words — ear plugs. Wait. I think that’s one word. Regardless, time to buy a pair. Maybe two. And not the cheap kind, either. This kid’s a screamer.

Scenario 4: Attire

First child: To be dressed immaculately at all times. Girls sport tasteful dresses with complimentary bows. Boys dress like Little Lord Fauntleroy, complete with emasculating smocking and those bad little saddle oxfords.

Middle child: Presentable attire preferred with a premium placed on comfort, not formality.

Last child: Whatever’s clean. (Or not super-dirty. Unless it’s that NASCAR shirt. Because that thing’s totally kick-ass, even with melted chocolate on it.)

Scenario 5: Boo-boos

First child: Dial 911 as you scoop your child off the ground and take his pulse while your spouse digs through the junk drawer for the CPR pamphlet.

Middle child: Thoroughly examine any and all wounds to make certain they don’t need the medical attention of a professional before properly cleaning and dressing them.

Last child: Help your child up, dust him off, then send him along his merry way as you encourage him to stop crying by delivering six heartfelt words of wisdom — “No one likes a pussy, son.”

Scenario 6: Babysitter Policy

First child: You can and should take your child virtually every place you go. But if you happen to find yourself in a situation which calls for a babysitter, make certain you conduct a thorough search, one complete with background checks. Two-week surveillance operations executed by a top-shelf private investigators never hurt, either.

Middle child: What about the Wilsons’ 15-year-old daughter? Didn’t she take that Red Cross babysitting class deal?

Last child: Never underestimate the power of a kick-ass baby monitor. Grab you six or seven and run relay with those bad boys and you should be all set for a coupla miles. Maybe even three.

Scenario 7: Baby Book

First child: Baby books should be neatly written synopses of every single thing your baby ever did, along with countless pictures which further tells your child’s remarkable story.

Middle child: Descriptions of and photos taken on red-letter days should be more than enough to capture the essence of your baby’s first year.

Last child: Cut and paste links to some of your sappier blog posts into a word doc and get on with it.

See the progression there? Now, before you rush down to the comment section and rip me a new one, please know that this post was written with tongue firmly planted firmly in cheek. But I do think there’s a shred of truth as it pertains not just to our parenting philosophy, but to many parents’ parenting philosophies as more and more kids are added to the mix. And surely such a progression, if in fact somewhat universal, could help create these birth-order traits.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the actual order of birth as it relates to sibling interaction has something to do with birth order traits, but I would argue that parenting style also plays a role.

So anyway, fellow parents — what say you? Is the birth-order thing fact or fiction? If fact, do parents help create it? And could you relate to any of the (sensationalized) scenarios above?

About John Cave Osborne

John Cave Osborne went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months thanks to marrying a single mom then quickly conceiving triplets. John and his wife, Caroline, recently welcomed their fifth child into the world, a little boy they named Grand Finale Osborne. He'd tell you more about it, but he's on the phone right now scheduling his vasectomy. You can keep up with John on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as well as on his personal blog which he calls (get this) John Cave Osborne.


  1. Suzie says:

    I firmly believe in birth order traits. Nine times out of ten I can pick out enough traits from a person to know their birth order. Except only children. They mystify me because as you said, so much is also based on parenting philosophies.

    • John Cave Osborne says:

      @Suzie: i’m w/ you. i believe in the traits, too. and only children will always be puzzling. as will the middle Duggar children.

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      • Suzie says:

        The Duggar’s are their own [little] clan so they hardly qualify for any birth order study when they’re all so busy raising each other. It’s mind boggling. Heck ever 4 or 5 years the birth order starts over, so who could keep track in a family that size.

  2. Penbleth says:

    I think there is a lot of truth in birth order traits although of course they are also bound to be influenced by how they are treated by their parents and others. That’s life. My kids certainly seem to fall fairly obviously in to their trait rolls. Of course they also know the traits and may be doing it subconsciously.

    It’s these clearly defined opinions that make me the thought leader I am today.

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    • John Cave Osborne says:

      @Penbleth: yep. pretty much my thoughts. it’s early still, as most of ours are still so young, but i can totally see how these traits would emerge. and i think that Grand Finale’s NASCAR onesie makes me a thought leader, too. though there’s the offhand chance that all it makes me is a total redneck. which i’m reasonably comfortable with. thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. yeah, I think it’s a real thing, but only because most parents fall into the same pattern.

    when I was growing up, my family had 5 kids, but only 2 middle children. The oldest was a girl, so the oldest boy was treated like the oldest kid, and has oldest child birth order traits.

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    • John Cave Osborne says:

      i was the fifth of five and there are notable (and predictable) differences between the oldest, the middle three and me. interesting scenario re: your oldest sister and older brother. thanks for the comment!

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  4. Choosy says:

    We have four, having added two in the last six months (aged 1 & 2) and the change in my older two (5 & 7)is amazing!

    I think siblings have something to do with this too (I don’t discredit the parental role AT ALL, all the “rules” went out the window, it’s just about survival at this point :)). But watching my “baby” become a big brother has been eye opening.

    It’s changed who he is.

    • John Cave Osborne says:

      @choosy — so cool that you have 2 under two and also have 4 kids! great stuff. and yes, having just added a baby to our roster as well, i can totally relate to how incredible it is to see a child adapt to the new role of older sibling…

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  5. Beckey says:

    I only have two little monsters, but I fully agree with you. Hell, I even ran errands yesterday with both my children wearing pajamas in the middle of the day. As long as they’re not naked, right?

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  6. John Cave Osborne says:

    @Beckey and the problem with them being naked would be?? (joke!) totally with you, my friend. thanks for the comment.

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  7. marj says:

    One of seven kids here. Oldest is the thoughtful, level-headed one, middle child is a pain in the ass and the youngest was all but ignored his whole life. Birth order TOTALLY has something to do with it.
    Me? I’m one of the older ones. Sort of level headed and only a pain in the ass once in a while. And no one forgets me.

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    • John Cave Osborne says:

      dude. you’re the oldest of 7 and i’m the youngest of 5. we should somehow like negate each other, right? what a wonderful, big, fun family you must have had growing up.

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  8. Siobhan Wolf says:

    All I could think while reading this was: baby after triplets? Wow!

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    • John Cave Osborne says:

      Siobhan — HA! you made me cackle. though, technically, all you should have been thinking was *mistake*! (one we’re glad we made but one we’ll never make again…)

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  9. Ninja Mom says:

    Right on! Spot the fuck on.

    Tongue in cheek you say? I’m not ashamed to admit you’ve just laid out a factual account of my parenting life.

    Great post, very funny.

  10. Cori says:

    I totally agree the second child (and any further subsequent ones) get less and less attention or care (boo-boos, clean, clothing, etc.)… as a second child myself and having ZERO photos of me as a child I am making a concerted effort to give equal scrapbooking and photos so she has the same memories documented as her older sister did… at 4 months so far so good… but let’s see if I can keep it up for the next 4 years!

  11. Amy says:

    Birth order, smurf order, im sure there are multiple contributing factors…but I just gotta say, that was freakin hilarious! You made my day! You’ve got a gift, man!


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