Did you ever wonder if birth order (the numerical order of birth among siblings) can really have an effect on romantic relationships?  If you have, you’re certainly not alone. I googled “birth order and effects on romantic relationships” and got 10,400,000 results (in 0.21 seconds, no less).

I stopped reading after the first 75,629 articles, I was getting hungry.

Birth Order Effect on Personality

I did discover that birth order can have an effect on personality, at least according to some psychologists.

  • Firstborn child- likes to take charge and be in positions of control and authority. They usually are motivated, responsible and organized
  • Middle child- they usually get along with the widest range of people. They are easy-going, diplomatic and realistic. However, they can also be unfocused and indecisive
  • Lastborn child- tend to be creative, risk takers, outgoing, and open to new ideas. They also tend to be self-centered and attention seeking
  • Only child- very similar to the firstborn child and the youngest child. They are self-confident, self-reliant, and academically successful. They also tend to be perfectionists

It makes sense to me. I’m the youngest of two boys. I know that my parents were a lot more relaxed and easy-going with me primarily because they had already been through the various rites of passage- first date, driver’s license, late curfews (although not on a school night), etc. My brother was the trial and error experiment for them.

According to Frank Sulloway, an M.I.T. research scholar and author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives, birth order differences are as strong as gender differences. He says that later-borns tend to rebel because they often aren’t allowed to do what their older siblings are allowed to do, precisely because of the age difference. Consequently, they act out, and may even do reckless things to get their parent’s attention.

Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist who has been studying birth order since 1967 and author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, says “The one thing you can bet your paycheck on is the firstborn and second-born in any given family are going to be different.”

But Dalton Conley, a NYU sociology professor and author of The Pecking Order: A Bold New Look at How Family and Society Determine Who We Become, says that “birth order makes about as much sense as astrology, which is almost none.” He says that other factors such as age range between siblings, gender, early death of a parent or sibling, birth order position of each parent, relationship between parents, blending of two or more families, economic shocks to the family, and outside influences all affect the behavior and the roles of the children in the family.

Birth Order Effect on Romantic Relationships

So how does all of this affect romantic relationships? The general consensus from the over 75,000 articles that I read while researching this blog post (actually most of the information below is extracted from a book by Linda Blair (no, not “The Exorcist” Linda Blair), Birth Order: What Your Position in the Family Really Tells You About Your Character) is:

Winning combinations

  • First born and last born- the first born wants to take care of someone and can teach the last born to be more organized and responsible. The last born, who wants to be taken care of, can teach the first born how to have more fun
  • First born and middle child- the middle child is easy to get along with because they’re used to making compromises, although they might feel that their needs are being ignored
  • Only child and last born- similar to the first born and last born combination
  • Middle child and last born- the middle child is most likely to accept the last born’s need for attention
  • Middle born and only child- the only child will probably want to take charge and the middle born will most likely allow this Gee, sounds as if being the last born is the best, you get along with everybody

Losing combinations

  • First born with first born- a difficult combination as both want to be in charge. It can work if they both respect each other
  • First born and only child- the same issues of “being in charge” are present as with a first born and first born
  • Middle child with middle child- because they’re so used to “giving in,” it’s possible that the pair may find it difficult to make any decisions
  • Last born with last born- may find it difficult to be organized and plan ahead
  • Only child and only child- since both will want to be in charge and neither has much experience in getting along with equals, it could prove to be a difficult combination


So What Does All This Mean?

Well before we get to the exciting conclusion, I thought a little humorous interlude might be fun:

I hope you enjoyed that.

On with the conclusion- Since the experts can’t seem to agree if birth order alone has any real effect on personality, it seems difficult to conclude that birth order would necessarily have any real effect on romantic relationships and compatibility either. We can certainly make generalizations and people tend to do that. An example would be to conclude that just because one person fits the description of the Aquarius astrological sign, that all people born under that sign must have similar traits as well.

By ruling someone out or ruling them in because of your birth order combination, could cause you to miss someone who may be a perfect match. There are too many variables and random factors that go into creating our personalities. We’re all individuals and you might be doing yourself a huge disservice by putting someone into a box or categorizing them because of their birth order.

What Do You Think?

Do you think looking at birth order is a good way for you to narrow the field or is it possible you could be overlooking a good match? What might be a better way?

Rick Henkin is a Co-Founder of KnowYourMan, a service of Social Mastermind Corp. Rick can be contacted through any of the following: Email: rick@knowyourman.com,  Facebook: facebook.com/knowyourman,  Twitter: @rickhenkin, LinkedIn: linkedin/in/rickhenkin