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First child, second child, third child First child, second child, third child
by Joseph Gatt
2020-12-23 11:07:32
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How being the elder son or the younger son or daughter could affect behavior, personality, and life in general. An informal study using a large sample.

Growing up as an only child

I'll focus on only children first. Many parents choose to settle for one child and no more than one child.

China had the single-child policy for a very long time and that led to what they call the “prince syndrome” or the “princess syndrome.”

3ch001_400That is when only children grow up in middle class or upper class environment, they tend to be spoiled, receive anything they ask for. And that often leads them to take everything for granted and to assume they will get anything they ask for in life.

Only children will thus tend to crave the kind of companionship that is more co-dependent than the classical definition of friendship. That is most people take some distances from their friends, but only children could attempt to create a dependent relationship with their friends. They will often have one or two friends, and their goal in mind is to hang out with those friends like “siblings” would.

Only children can also be very dependent with their romantic partners, craving the kind of companionship they did not have at home. Since only children were the center of attention of their parents, only children tend to believe that their romantic partners should be the center of their attention.

Only children tend to do well in school, tend to go to college, especially if they were from comfortable economic backgrounds.

But only children were often so protected by their mothers that they avoid taking risks, and can have trouble working in jobs where they have to deal with large numbers of people. They will usually be shy when it comes to dealing with large numbers, and will want jobs where they only depend on one or two people to get the job done.

This does not mean that only children don't aim for artistic careers or public careers. Only children in fact tend to make for great artists or public figures, specifically because they tend to avoid risks, tend to be professional, and rely on two or three people for advice while communicating with the public at large.

First child

In families of two or more children, parents are testing their parenting skills on their first child. So the great success and big failures will be directed at the first child.

Parents might overdo it when it comes to checking the first child's homework, and might test weird, quirky ideas on the first child.

Furthermore, for many families, income tends to go up as they age, so the first child will usually experience that “lower income” period that subsequent children might not experience.

This usually means that first children are more likely to be more articulate, to have clearer ideas, to express clear ideas, and to have more logical ideas. Specifically because the first child is defending himself/herself against strange parenting ideas. But also because the first child is guiding his/her parents and helping them parent the other children.

First children are usually the articulate and logical ones, and they are a lot less likely to take risks or to break the law. They tend to be strong on ethics, would rarely cheat at an exam or cheat on their spouse.

First children are also more likely to establish routines and rituals, are more likely to be “the most religious one” if the family is religious, and is more likely to get married at a younger age.

But, first children are also more likely to obey orders and to do what they are told. So in their friendships and relationships, they could get trapped into following orders that could lead them to trouble.

If a first child gets in trouble with the law, it's usually because an elder ordered them to do something and they followed the order.

The second child

The first child “lights the path” and the second child sees the path, which often means he or she knows the path and knows where to walk.

The first child often has to constantly research and discover life lessons, the second child can see the life lessons from afar, and can take any necessary forbidden step.

Second children are a lot more likely to cheat at all sorts of things, and they tend to know what to do if they get caught.

Second children are also a lot more likely to take risks. The first child is usually a “brainy” kind of child who likes to learn about life, the second child is more likely to try things out in life and less likely to be interested in “learning” per se.

The first child is also a lot more likely to be generous when the second child is more likely to be a little selfish. The first child will probably try to build his/her own fortune while the second child won't mind getting help building his/her fortune.

Subsequent children

Starting from the third child, parenting usually becomes a lot more natural and “reflex-based.” Parents are less likely to test theories and more likely to parent using reflexes and intuition.

So while the first child could be a little bit neurotic, and the second child could be a little bit more relaxed about life, subsequent children will usually be the “quiet” ones.

Parents are getting older, parents have less energy, and parents are more likely not to pay attention to subsequent children. So parents are kind of “neglecting” the subsequent children in that way they don't have all the “fire” energy they had with the first two children.

So subsequent children tend to be quiet, disciplined, and have moderate ambitions IF they grew up in middle-class or upper-class environments.

If the children grew up in struggling economic environments, those subsequent children are more likely to engage in violent crime, drugs and the like, specifically because their parents are “neglecting” them in that they don't have all the passion and energy they had with the first two children.

Exceptions to the rules

“My first child is not brainy at all. His/her grades in school are horrible.” I hear this one a lot from concerned parents.

My answer to this is that the poor grades in school are probably not the result of lack of motivation. They are probably the result of test anxiety.

The child who “lights the path” for his/her siblings will often put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well in school. So they might “overthink” simple questions and try to provide complicated answers. They might “overthink” how it is that they should be doing their homework. And to them school is usually a source of anxiety.

Second children however see the path clearly, and to them school is a little easier, because they see everything their elder sibling does wrong, and they self-correct.

Subsequent children will tend to be more secretive about their academic life. Some get great grades, others terrible grades, but they will usually use their parents' exhaustion to their advantage, by playing tricks to avoid discussing school life.

“My first child has loose morals when my second child is the more law-abiding one.”

I hear this one a lot. Indeed, sometimes your first child will grow up in an environment that encourages crime and loose behavior. So the elder child will join, specifically because that's his/her way to fit in.

Then the second child sees crime or other bad behavior “destroy” their elder brother/sister, and will tend to be careful not to engage in such behavior.

So luck and other social factors are also important.

“My third/fourth/fifth child is the real leader. He does everything and everyone follows.”

Indeed sometimes because parents did not put pressure on the third child, the third child has more freedom to explore, learn, observe, think and make conclusions.

So it happens quite often that the third or fourth child starts making a series of observations that make them take a leadership role within the family.

Finally: “my first son had dozens of mistresses and is in jail, my second son is happily married and leads a clean life, my third son leads an upbeat life and is very outgoing.”

Yes, I hear this a lot as well.

Most first children don't like to take risks, specifically because they have no idea what the consequences of their acts could be. Second children are more likely to take risks, because they can observe what consequences bad actions could have, and they often realize the consequences are not that dramatic.

But, it just happens that sometimes, for many different reasons, first children can engage in risky behavior. Usually because they hang out with a group of older friends who encourage such risky behavior.

But traditional parenting is the kind of parenting where parents prevent the elder son or daughter from seeing a lot of things, because that's what most parents do. So when the first child is “blindfolded” that's when they tend to avoid taking risks. But if the parents are permissive with their first child (which they are often not) then the first child could learn all kinds of risky behavior. And when permissive parents see the risk-taking hurt their first child, subsequent children tend to be careful not to repeat the mistakes.

So this is not mathematical science. A lot of other factors should be taken into consideration. But kids are fun... have fun parenting!

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