Birth Order: Does Family Placement Prescribe Personality?

An analysis of whether one’s place in the family prescribes one’s personality, with a focus on Alfred Adler’s views.

This paper investigates the influence of birth order on the psyche and personality of an individual. The paper probes how the rank of siblings in one’s family supplies for universal characteristics of personality types. The views of Alfred Adler, Schwab, Falbo, Gates and other psychologists are discussed. A focus is placed on Alfred Adler’s beliefs on the rank and number of family members that results in a person’s disposition and behavior.
“Alfred Adler once stated, “Even though children have the same parents and grow up in nearly the same setting, they do not have identical social environments” (Hjelle & Ziegler 1992). Adler was one of the first psychologists to propose the idea that a major determinant of personality was “order of birth.” Adler believed that children were born into a social group, the family, in which they held different positions of power. He believed that the quest for identity, power and attention was shaped by sequential positions among siblings. Adler believed that each child was born into a “different” family, based on their birth order. He felt that all children strived for superiority and had an intense desire to receive attention and affection from their parents. Therefore, children engage in sibling rivalries, which lead to the development of different personality traits.”