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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Are first borns more successful?
Sisters Kylie and Dannii Minogue
Eldest children are focused, natural leaders who are a success in the wider world, says an Australian parenting expert.

Every US astronaut has been the eldest child or first-born boy in the family and so have more than half of American presidents, Michael Grose says.

Second-born and middle children are the ones with tact, make good negotiators and hold a lot more friends - Adolf Hitler falls into that category.

And the youngest are the charmers, more likely to be artistic and creative, self-centred and manipulative.

Do you think that family position dictates your character traits? Do these categories match your family? Does order of birth shape your behaviour and thinking?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

After spending about 30 years in Chinese community, I would reassure you all that the statement is definitely true in this cultural locality. Just like Tom from UK says, the first born child has less parental attention but more responsibilities, like taking care of younger siblings, and thus they are usually tougher, more responsible and competent. Moreover they are expected to do something practical and meaningful like being a doctor, lawyer, etc, and be a good role model to their younger siblings. The youngest ones are usually the charmers and also more creative since they have more freedom to develop according to their own will. The middle ones are good negotiators since they have to struggle for their own position in traditional Chinese families as they are not as powerful as the first child and also not as treasured by the parents as the youngest ones.
Chelvin Gorr, HK

Who cares who is more successful as long as they are happy with their lives
Petra, Sloveni
You can always twist statistics in such a way to prove your theory. But in the end who cares who is more successful as long as they are happy with their lives. For me the only important thing between siblings is that we care about each other and that we are there for them when they need us.
Petra, Slovenia

I'm with David and Nick from the UK - as both the oldest and youngest of my parents' children (an only child), I'm curious about the sort of study that examines oldest, middle, and youngest children but makes no examination into the characteristics of singletons. Don't ignore us - "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
Gabrielle, England

In my opinion, this finding reflects the truth. Being the first born in my family, I was always involved in the tough times that our family had to go through and I had to make a contribution to help all of us to get out of it. My brother who is five years younger was always shielded from everything and the reasoning for this was - he is too small to tackle it or let's not get him involved in this. Naturally, this made me into a person who takes charge of things and leads other in times of trouble. Since my younger brother had a lot of time on his hands, became interested in the finer aspects of life and became more protective of his belongings. Isn't this a perfect example to prove the theory?
Sunil Jacob, India(living in USA)

I am tempted to say what twaddle, as I am the eldest born and in complete contrast to my siblings I am a complete failure. But that's probably because I wasn't breastfed or my birth weight was less or that I am smaller than average or maybe it's the colour of my hair/eyes/ears/teeth shape of my nose. What was I saying??
First Born, UK

I just joined an MBA program. One of our orientation exercises involved splitting into groups based on birth order, and about 75% were first born. This does mathematically support the Grose's theory.
Raghu, USA

I'm only just getting myself together life-wise
Arthur Taylor, USA
I disagree entirely. I was born a year before my brother with a very high IQ and I learned to speak and read incredibly early; not only that but my bro was born with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism which sets us even further apart. However, I languished for years on the dole, had problems with drugs, have never held down a job for more than a year, only learned to drive last year (I'm 30) and I'm only just getting myself together life-wise.

Conversely, my brother has held a job since leaving school despite minimal social skills, he learned to drive when he was 17 and is excellent at it. He has his own personal pension scheme, a financial advisor, a nice car and a bank account that's as full as mine is empty. Oh, and surprise, I'm the artistic, creative one. Go figure. Proud of you bro!
Arthur Taylor, USA

I have been successful, but my younger brother who has been vice-president of two companies has been much more so. I am the artistic, creative one, but he is the charmer.
Richard Clopton, USA

I totally agree. I am the eldest of three brothers and I have become a physician and my younger brothers are both janitors. Now I don't think I am better by any means but it is obvious that this example helps to prove that in fact the eldest is more successful.
Joe Black MD, PhD, USA

I was told if you are not a first born, you won't pass
Clory Jane Mostek, US
I was told to my face by an instructor at college after asking everyone in the class birth order, "If you are not a first born I don't care what kind of work you do, you won't pass." I am a third born child and a second born female.
Clory Jane Mostek, US

Birth order is only one factor in your personality. I am the oldest of six. As a stay at home mom, I doubt that I would be considered a success by your "expert". An oldest girl child usually has a very different upbringing than an oldest boy.
Kathleen, US

All of America's first astronauts were military officers, and most that followed were also until very recently. Does that also suggest that first-born's are more prone to aggression and violence? This subject becomes quite complicated rather quickly!
Michael, USA

In a Catholic community where big families are common, I've always seen the opposite
Tom, UK
As one of 6 children, in a Catholic community where big families are common, I've always seen the opposite - the eldest have less parental attention and more responsibility, often caring for younger siblings, and having to support themselves financially from an earlier age. The older siblings tend to be more anxious and less successful than the younger children, who often have better emotional and financial support. The younger ones all seem to be confident, high-achievers - doctors, lawyers and engineers, whereas the eldest seem careworn and far more vulnerable to mental health problems
Tom, UK

Not another expert telling us what the stats suggest!. My sister (the first child)was good at school, university and had a good career before having three children and becoming a full time mum. I was also good at school, university and have an exciting career however, have chosen not to have a family. My sister and I are equals in every way, by making stat suggesting one is better than the other will only create animosity. Enjoy being a sibling.
Scott, London

I am with David from Israel (below). I am the 5th child of 6, where do I fit? Whilst I do not believe in such theories, my siblings seem to fit into the description. My eldest brother is clearly the most successful and my youngest sister is very self-centred. What about an only child?
Eugenia Kothe, Mexico (living in Germany)

No, I don't think it matters at all. I was an only child for six years and received all the parental attention a child could get, but the minute my sibling arrived, I was yesterday's news. The only thing that drove me was achieving majority and leaving home. I became extremely independent, taking some knocks but getting on with life. No, I am not more successful because I was born first, just more tenacious.
Di Stewart, USA

It seems only eldest children are happy with their lot
Anna, Devon
It's interesting to look at some of the responses. People seem to resent the categorizations. Instead of seeing it as a positive thing that middle children are more tactful, good negotiators and have more friends, the middle child posters seem offended that they aren't viewed as having the potential for leadership that oldest children do. Instead of youngest children taking the artistic and creative comments as a compliment, the seek to show that they have the traits that are given to the other two categories. It seems only eldest children are happy with their lot. It's like a real family where the younger children always seem jealous of the oldest sibling.
Anna, Devon, UK

I am the eldest with my brother 17 months younger. We were both raised by a single, teenage mum on a run down council estate in North East England from the late '70's to early '90's. I'm now 28, living in the South East, married with 1 child, a BSc in Information Technology and I'm an I.T. professional with my own company. My brother is a 2nd Chef at a top Hotel in the South West. I don't think it's whether you were 1st/2nd/last born, but how much drive you have to improve your quality/standard of life and how keen you are to keep it there once you've reached your goal.
Pauline Yates (Nee Harrison), Suffolk, England (Formally Teesside)

I do like Kylie better than Dannii.
Kelvin, Canada

Both of my brothers and I are equally successful. I think my elder brother was more so initially, but he did have two years head-start, and my twin and I have caught him up. I think we are all doing well because our parents had an equal interest in all our upbringings.
Russ, UK

My mother was the oldest, and she received the least education as she had to leave school early and work
Steve C, UK
The research doesn't make sense. My mother was the oldest, and she received the least education in her family as she had to leave school early and work to earn money. Whereas myself the oldest in the family (I have a younger brother), we have both been successful at university and in our working life. I think success depends on the environment you are in, a bit of luck, and your own effort.
Steve C, UK

I think it's more to do with growing up, getting hand-me-down clothes and toys, always having to live up to the expectations of your elder sibling achievements that cause younger siblings to under-achieve - it could be true but I think the problem is social rather than Genetic.
Dave, UK

I am a first born and i definitely do feel as if there is a difference between myself and my siblings. I have always been a better student than either of them. In addition, unlike myself, my younger brother is very quiet and reserved. I feel as if parents give much more attention to their first borns, either by reading to them more, showing them more love, etc.
Jeff D. , NY- USA

As the oldest of 3 I am in total agreement. Not only am I more successful than my younger siblings but I'm also a lot more attractive and I don't have a beard like my younger sister. Having said this my younger brother is definitely a more accomplished ballet dancer and does outshine me in a tutu.
Susanna, UK

We are both happy in our own lives, so I would suggest we are both successful
Paul Johnson, UK
It all depends on how you term success. I'm the youngest of two, and have a more successful career and hence more material possessions than my brother, but he has two wonderful children and a wife who cares a great deal about him. We are both happy in our own lives, so I would suggest we are both successful.
Paul Johnson, UK

This seems true - I think it's to do with upbringing, social situations and responsibility rather than genetics. My older brother is more responsible and more clever, but doesn't have my creative skills.
Ian Ferguson, UK

I'm the first in our family and while I'm earning more than my younger brother, I wouldn't class myself as more successful - he has done many things I could only dream of. Mind you - in a two child family, lady luck always waits for the second one!
Chris E, England

It all depends how you are brought up. My younger sister is definitely self-centred and manipulative and was the youngest for a long time. When the late arrival that is my little brother was born, my sister, although no longer the youngest, is unfortunately still quite self-centred!
Lauren, UK

I think success as a first born is due to the fact that the parents are doing it for the first time hence more care.
Beverly Watila, Kenya

Most of these things are down to luck
Simon Richardson, UK
I am second, and more successful by society's measurements (income, marriage, qualifications) than my older brother. My wife is also second, and she has a degree and a husband, unlike her older sister. This survey looks like nonsense from here. But maybe the problem is with the silly things that are called "success". Most of these things are down to luck.
Simon Richardson, UK

This all depends how you define success! After all are humans more successful than dolphins? We live stressful lives, poison our planet and try to kill each other in many and various ways... where as dolphins splash around having a laugh all day!
Andy, UK

The theory seems to be true. While I am making good money and generally succeeding in life, my younger brother is on remand for dealing heroin and is undergoing psychological testing. I guess the boffins really hit the nail on the head this time!
Matthew, England

I am the elder brother in my family, and I gained a first class degree and a PhD, while my brother went on to do not so well academically, but excelled in other areas (sport mainly). I don't believe this research for a second, what I can tell you is that growing up I took a lot more flack off my parents, by the time my brother got to the same stage, they had seen it all before with me and he got off lightly!
Mike, England

As if we needed yet another 'expert' to tell us yet another thing we already know!! Yes, I am a typical middle child. I've known it all my life. No expert needed! Thank you.
Richie, UK

There is no way to measure success as everybody's perception of the word is different
Simon, UK
How can you say who is more successful? It depends entirely of what your idea of success is. I have achieved far more academically than my older brother and I have a much more successful career than he does. However, I do envy the way he lives his life so trouble free. He is doing well at what he wants to do with his life and I am doing well with mine. There is no way to measure success as everybody's perception of the word is different.
Simon, UK

Over half of the children in UK are first-born. What a load of leaders we can expect!
Bren, Australia/UK

My sister has a criminal record, is a single mother and expects my parents to bail her out every mistake she makes. Despite the age gap (he's 10 yrs younger and still at school) my younger brother is intelligent and generous. I am expected to obtain a first at university, own my own home and have a fantastic relationship with my long-term partner. I suppose there's always got to be exceptions to the rule, because someone who gets paid so much for producing something so useless couldn't possibly be wrong...could they?
Anon, UK

I'm the youngest and also the slowest typist in my house so this survey must be true. Thanks, I now know I'm dumb.
JJ Ockocha, UK

Surely all professions and every level of success will contain more first-borns than later siblings, simply because there are more first-borns? For every second-born child their MUST have been a first-born before them. I'm sure you'd find that there are more first-borns amongst homeless people, criminals, drug addicts and bankrupts - are these people "successful"?
Jim, Wales

This is definitely not the case in my family. My brother (second born) is the most successful.
Rachel Southall, Great Britain

We cannot generalise; all humans have the chance of making it in this world
Sandra, Australia
The eldest child, generally speaking, is the hamster in the family: they're the ones who have to try everything first. This, however, does lead to their greater maturity. Hence, leading to more success. On the other hand, we cannot generalise; all humans have the chance of making it in this world, it's only the ones who are more focused do.
Sandra, Australia

How will this pan out in the future, when children are from families with different parents? I have three daughters, the youngest of which is a younger child of my family but is the eldest child of her father's family?
Janet Scott, UK

My family seems to work in the opposite way. Both myself and my youngest niece are the ones who have gone through school and Uni. Both our elder siblings either work in shops or not at all.
Dave, UK

I match all three sets of traits so explain that one? I am also the middle child. If ever show signs of having the same amount of arrogance as any US president or the psychopathic views of Hitler please shoot me! What a load of waffle.
Sarah, UK

First borns are far more likely to achieve more than second or third borns. First borns make up the largest proportion of the population, particularly in America and Europe.
Michael, UK

I am one three siblings. The findings just about sum it up for us.
Robert Arisz, Amsterdam

Middle children are meant to be peace keepers. Tony Blair and George Bush are middle children!!
Katie, UK

The firstborn tends to get the most stress from the parents
James, UK
Part of this could be because the firstborn tends to get the most stress from the parents, especially if it's a male. I'm the oldest in my family and my kid brothers and sisters have had a very easy time of it! Most of my friends are similar.
James, UK

The eldest born is only a natural leader because when the second born child arrives they are left to their own devices to a certain extent. The firstborn therefore becomes more independent and at an early age makes their own decisions where as the youngest is treated more like the baby. I'm an eldest child and work in an office and have continued studying throughout my working life, where as my younger brother is a chef and wouldn't know which way to hold a book.
Helen W, UK

The American president statistic shows nothing. In the past, a lot more energy and money were poured into eldest sons as heirs, making them more likely to succeed. Recently, with average number of children around two, one boy one girl, more than half of all boys would be first born boys, as it discounts older sisters.
David Nicholson, France

She certainly doesn't use her tact or friend-making skills on me!
Anon, UK
I don't care whether me or my sister is more successful - as long as we're some distance apart! She certainly doesn't use her tact, negotiating, or friend-making skills on me!
Anon, UK

Researchers always make comments about firstborns, second borns and the youngest, but what about people like me (fourth of six)? Don't I have any innate characteristics as the result of my birth order? And if so, I've always wondered what they are.
David, Israel

As the middle child of five, I would say there is a definite difference in the personalities across the family - my eldest sister was always the career woman, and my youngest sister was treated as the baby of the family well into her 20s - both were argumentative (although they'd argue that fact!). The middle three - I would agree, are all mediators. We all love each other and support one another - our success lies in our family bond - not achievements in career or what we own.
Sarah, B'stoke, UK

I suspect that younger siblings may struggle for longer to establish their own identities. But sibling rivalry isn't enough to define a personality or determine your success - we all have the choice to be who we want to be.
Kirsty, UK

Gee thanks Michael Grose for putting me in the same category as Hitler. This research is purely coincidental; "success" is very subjective and circumstance-dependent. And if it's true in some cases then I think it's down to a failing of parents to give equal love and encouragement to all their kids.
Tim, UK

Middle children are also less clever
Nadia Al-Ahmad, UK
I believe this closely matches my family; however I also believe the second born and middle children are also less clever and feel intimidated by their older and younger siblings who usually out perform them in everything.
Nadia Al-Ahmad, UK

To Nadia Al-Ahmad: Is it any wonder your second and middle born children "are also less clever and feel intimidated by..." when you judge them like this? My parents made no difference between me and wonderful siblings (one sister, one brother) encouraged all of us individually and celebrated all our achievements in whatever path we have chosen. Thanks Mam and Dad.
Christine, UK

Absolutely not. How absurd to suggest such a questionable theory! We are who we decide to be. Want to be a leader in your field? Then go to it! Ignore such statements from negative people who call themselves 'experts'.
Helen, UK

What a strange measurement of success. While the second-born are credited with tact and more friendships the firstborn are claimed to be focused and ambitious. Personally I think it's a sad fact of life that these qualities are held as measurements of success.
Phillip Holley, UK, London

I think American presidents are hardly good examples of achievement!!!
Patricia, UK

I am a second born child and have a more "successful" career and more qualifications than my older sibling, she is raising a family, and is putting her energies into starting a business with her husband - so which of us is the more successful? The answer is simple - NEITHER of us, we're both equally as successful in our own ways. Can't these people find something useful to study?
Jen, UK

I am younger and it's made me more competitive
Adrian, UK
What rubbish! I am the younger of two brothers and if anything it's made me more competitive to achieve greater results in my education than my brother as I had something to aim for. Since finishing university we are both on the same level, career-wise. There are so many other variables affecting success (ie luck, education) that I don't think you can pin it down to family birth order.
Adrian, UK

Phooey! Me and my twin have been much more successful than our older sister. Perhaps being twins gave us an unfair advantage.
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK

I think the eldest child learns responsibility at an early age as they are often given the task of babysitting, while younger siblings learn how to be a brat and annoying trying their hardest to disrupt their elder sibling from this task!
Sam, UK

So what does this mean for only children? Are we the best and worst of both worlds I wonder? Successful, good negotiators and artistic - but with a nagging multiple-personality complex...
David, UK

I'm an only child - so that must mean that I'm a natural leader blessed with tact, charm and creative ability. Wahey!
Nick, UK





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