Birth Order

My husband and I are both first borns and I see the personality traits are present in us.  We both have a middle and a youngest sibling of the same gender that we are.  Siblings are raised essentially in the same environment, so it could be assumed that we might be more like our brothers and sisters. Yet it appears that the same home environment makes up only 5-10% of our personality.  Many of us would agree that we are somewhat or very different from our siblings.  Genetic factors have more impact on our personality, maybe as much as 50%. Nurturing, how we are cared for must matter a lot.

Does birth order matter in adoption ?  That is a question that I came to this morning’s blog with in mind.  Does it matter if children are adopted out of their birth order ?  My mom was the first born of her original mother and also the only child but was the youngest in the home she was raised in with an older brother who was also adopted.  My dad was the first born and the oldest in the home where he was adopted.  He grew up with a younger brother who was also adopted.

One study concluded that the rearing order of the children had little impact on personality except for conscientiousness, which was higher for children who were raised as first-born. The child’s sex had more impact than did rearing order.

Most adoptive families do not consider the impact that rearing order will have on infants who are first born to their biological parents, if they enter an adoptive home as the second or third child. If a child is an infant, it is assumed that such a child will have the characteristics associated with the rearing order in which they are placed.  More often, adoptive families want to know the impact of adopting children out of age order on the children already there— especially on the oldest child or on several younger children when adopting an older child.

Sibling rivalry and the need for attention are very real factors in any multi-child home.  I have seen it up close and personal with my two sons and have experienced a misplaced idealism upon my own reality that simply was not real by my youngest sister.  I have seen frequently that the younger children often look up to the oldest.  I have experienced first hand that parents expect the oldest to be an example of a “good” person – whatever that means in any family’s context.

Here is one reality some adoptive families face – maybe you have a larger age gap among your genetic/biological children.  So you chose to adopt a child who can fill in the gap in age differences. Neither the oldest nor the youngest child’s position in your family is displaced by this decision.  However, in any adoption of an older child, the chronological age of that child can be quite different from the child’s emotional age due to the trauma they have experienced.  The reality you may find is that this new “middle” child is more like the youngest child in the family.

In any adoption – it is all about your expectations as an adopting parent. If you adopt a child who fits nicely into the age range where your children are right now, this newly adopted child may not blend in as well as you anticipated.  Some precautions will be necessary when adopting an older child or when adopting a sibling group.