Birth Order and the Impact on Personality (aka Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!)

How important is family birth order in creating your personality? Tony references the article “Birth Order Traits: Your Guide to Sibling Personality Differences” by Jocelyn Voo https://www.parents.com/baby/development/social/birth-order-and-personality/ and “62 Interesting Birth Order Facts” https://www.factretriever.com/birth-order-facts in this episode.

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Tony Overbay, is the co-author of “He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.

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Tony also mentioned his appearances this week on two podcasts, The Betrayed, The Addicted and The Expert with hosts Ashlyn and Coby, and Virtual Couch former guest Brannon Patrick where we discuss narcissism in detail and the challenges people face in relationships with narcissistic individuals https://www.betrayedaddictedexpert.com/podcast/episode/25d19bf1/is-narcissism-nature-or-nurture and The Millennial Member Podcast hosted by Emily Ensign where we discuss the topic of pornography, what helps with recovery, and what doesn’t https://www.buzzsprout.com/1072564/6209683-tony-overbay-pornography-and-recovery
Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the “uh’s” and “um’s” that, in his words, “must be created by wizards and magic!” because it’s that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQThis episode of The Virtual Couch is sponsored by http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch With the continuing “sheltering” rules that are spreading across the country PLEASE do not think that you can’t continue or begin therapy now. http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch can put you quickly in touch with licensed mental health professionals who can meet through text, email, or videoconference often as soon as 24-48 hours. And if you use the link http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch you will receive 10% off your first month of services. Please make your own mental health a priority, http://betterhelp.com/virtualcouch offers affordable counseling, and they even have sliding scale options if your budget is tight.

——— TRANSCRIPT ———-

EP 244 Birth Order-2021-01-20
[00:00:00] I remember being a new father and my first born daughter, Alex, so I’d waited for four, seven years after we had been married, who’s now 22, was around a year old, and she wasn’t walking yet. And my wife, Wendy and I were beyond worried. We had friends whose son had started walking before he had 10 months old. And man, we heard about it, Alex said, tucked her foot under before standing up. I remember she didn’t like tummy time at six months or something along that time frame, and she didn’t like running under the parachute at Gymboree class. I can’t exactly remember, but the implications were clear. What if Alex never learned how to walk? What if her delayed walking led to a lower IQ? Would we hold ourselves responsible if Alex didn’t go on to become a Nobel Prize winning astronaut architect who volunteered her weekends building homes and third world countries? So fast forward about six years and my youngest son Jake was born. Pretty sure Jake learned how to walk at some point because he currently just a few days shy of 17, is a nationally ranked high school basketball player with some Division One college offers. And I don’t know if he spent much time on his tummy or if he really even enjoyed parachute time at Gymboree class either.

[00:01:12] And I know it seems like a cliche to say that as you have more kids, you go from hyper vigilant parent to, hey, is anybody seen kid number seven? He or I think it might be she still lives in her home right now. There’s somewhere between 15 and 18 somewhere around there. The days is a chit or cliff. The name starts with a C, right. But as often the case cliches are born out of some truth. So what is true when it comes to birth order when Jan Brady, perhaps the most famous middle child of all time, sadly but passionately exclaimed Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. It’s all about Marcia, where she’s simply jealous of her older sisters, bellbottoms and groovy threads. Or was there some true psychological scarring occurring in that split-Level home somewhere down in sunny Southern California? So on today’s episode of The Virtual Couch, we’re going to be talking all about birth order. Where do you fall in your family? And from some quick interviews with my own kids, I think you’re going to find more truth than you would have expected, at least in my home.

[00:02:10] That and plenty more coming up on today’s episode of The Virtual Couch.

[00:02:23] Hey, welcome to episode two hundred and forty four, The Virtual Couch. I’ve got a fun one today. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified mind will have a coach, a writer speaker, a husband, a father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back, a pornography recovery program that’s helping people stop themselves from turning to pornography as a coping mechanism. And I help people do it in a strength based hold machine, become the person you always wanted to be kind of way. If you are interested in taking a look at the program, just head over to Pathbackrecovery.com.

[00:02:53] You’ll find a short ebook there that will help you identify five myths that people often make when they are trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. So again, go to Pathbackrecovery.com and there’s a weekly group called there. There’s a forum, all kinds of good things. And you can also find a link there from Tony Overbay Dotcom. And if you head over there, sign up to find out more about my magnetic marriage course. There’s a big announcement that’s coming up. It might be the end of this week or early next week that has to do with that magnetic marriage program. And as I was starting to record, I was I got caught up in reading an email that I got this morning. And I’m I’m kind of, I don’t know, humbled, honored, very excited. But it appears I was nominated for a Family Is Award. And by going to that site and there’s people there that I love, people that I’ve had on my podcast, Rachael Nielsen, Ralphie Jacobs, a lot of people that have won some awards in the past off of the site. But it apparently honors, they say, influencers who celebrate commitment, popularize parenting, bolster balance and validate values. And so I love it. I’m excited. I’ll find out more about that. And I don’t know if it’s a voting thing or a posting thing, but I’m very, very much honored. And I think today’s podcast will be one of those fun ones because we’re going to talk about birth order.

[00:04:06] And that is something that when I go through my spiel of what goes into what makes you you and man, I’ve got it memorized in my head, I start off by saying it’s your nature or nurture or your nature, your nurture, your birth order, your DNA, abandonment, rejection, hopes, dreams, fears, all those sort of things. So I got birth order right in there because I know that birth order affects our personality. But to what extent? And so I’m going to refer to an article today from parents that come let me double check that. Parents Dotcom. It’s by Jocelin Vu and it says, Birth order traits, your guide to sibling personality differences. And I had a chance last night. I did it a little bit impulsively, and that was to reach out to all four of my kids and get their take on birth order and how they were affected or impacted or if they agreed with some of the things that we’re going to read today or if they felt like it really wasn’t applicable to them. And I heard all across the gamut. And then while I was talking with my oldest daughter, Alex, who I talked about here in the intro, her husband Mitch was there. And that was a lot of fun because my daughter Alex is the oldest and my son in law, Mitch is the youngest. And there were truly some aha moments that that we found out, even just in a short amount of time that we talked about how birth order may or may not affect one.

[00:05:26] So we’re going to get to that article in just a minute or two. Before I do that, please head over to TonyOverbaycom, sign up to find out more about this magnetic marriage course and some other things coming up. And if if you’re if you’re open to it, up for it, do me a solid and head over to virtual couch on Instagram and and subscribe. I would be honored. I’ve got some amazing, amazing people that are handling some things, but not behind the scenes. Crystal who who’s doing an amazing job, taking a lot of quotes from the various podcasts, and Arya, who is making some cool graphics and I mean business guy Neil, who’s just helping organize a lot of things behind the scenes so we can create more content than I’ve. I’ve got a video coming up pretty soon there. I want to put on reels that is about how abandonment and abandonment and attachment affect us in our daily lives that I’m really excited to to post. So look for that coming up pretty soon, too. And if you’re if you’re open a wife, you’re open to it. I would I would be very honored. I would appreciate it if you took the time to subscribe or wait to review or share any of the episodes that you you have enjoyed. So let us get to the article. So birth order, birth order traits, your guide to sibling personality differences.

[00:06:41] And Jocelyn starts off by saying that being the first or middle youngest are only child probably influences your behavior. And here’s what you need to know about the link between birth order and personality traits. So Dr. Kevin Leman is a psychologist who has studied birth order since nineteen sixty seven. That was before I was born. And he wrote the book, The Birth Order Book, Why You Are the Way You Are. And that is one of the first books that I became aware of. And I true confession now that I have been doing this for a long time. Seventeen, eighteen years or so, man, do I see the impact that birth order has on individuals and the reason I am kind of. Framing this, I need to be very open and authentic, I remember being in grad school and I remember at that point anybody that is in grad school to be a therapist or getting a masters or a doctorate in psychology, I’ve had some similar discussions where all of a sudden you really do feel like you, you know, a lot more than you do. As a matter of fact, there’s a fun thing that I’ve done episodes on in the past called the Dunning Kruger Effect, which says that, quite frankly, people that have a little bit of information like to think that they’ve got all of the information and they will wax on poetic and philosophic about all kinds of topics that they really aren’t as informed in as they believe that they were.

[00:07:57] And I remember that was definitely how I was in grad school. If somebody came up and asked me my thoughts on something psychological as they found out that I was going back to school to become a therapist, I would just weigh in on whatever I thought was important or my understanding of something at the time. And I still remember to this day talking to someone where they said is true. What’s the impact that birth order has? And I didn’t know I don’t really know enough about it. And I felt like, well, I don’t think it impacted me very much. I was the youngest, but man, was I wrong. Birth order is is definitely something that impacts the way that we show up in a family. And one of the things that I want to start and frame this entire conversation with is that as you get awareness of something and again today, we’re going to find out if you were the oldest or the youngest or somewhere in the middle or if you were an only child. We’ll talk about that as well. But with awareness, I don’t think Spider-Man said this, but what does he say? With power comes great responsibility. I was about to say with awareness, now comes knowledge. And with that knowledge, I think Schoolhouse Rock taught us that knowledge is power. And I have no idea where I’m going right now. But my point is that when you are aware, become aware of something that doesn’t mean, again, acceptance of saying, wow, that is me, I’m the oldest.

[00:09:09] Those traits are true to me. Acceptance doesn’t equate to apathy. Acceptance doesn’t mean well, I guess now I know how I’m going to turn out the rest of my life. Oh no. With acceptance now, we’re no longer fighting against the whatever we are accepting now with that acceptance, we aren’t trying to poke holes or look for ways to try to see if if what we hear is true with acceptance now we can move forward. So I want you to keep that in mind as you hear a lot of things today that might line up with your experience in life or how you show up in relationships. Now, I want that to be a little bit of an aha aha moment. That is why I show up the way I do. So with that new knowledge. Now, if I want to, I can do something about it. And in a couple of podcasts, I have talked a lot about abandonment and attachment and I have talked about it so many times in session that I want to make this very brief and I will then I want this to kind of frame the conversation that we’re going to have today. So abandonment and attachment. And so think of this as we set the stage and we talk about birth order. Today, everyone is born a little pink, squishy baby.

[00:10:12] And when we come out of the womb, we immediately are in attachment is such an attachment based creature because without attachment, without someone meeting our needs, we literally will die. So abandonment equals death. That is how the wiring starts moving forward in our little tiny brains. So if we cry or as we cry, we are then fed or we’re held, we’re comforted, we’re soothed, our diapers are wiped. And so that that kind of sets the stage. So in our little baby brains, we’re pouring this foundation of if we if we express ourselves, our needs will be met. And if our needs aren’t met, we will die. So abandonment equals death and the baby starts off by recognizing or slowly moving into this. They are the center of the universe that the world must revolve around them, because, again, when they express their needs, everybody jumps. And from that point on, and none of this is said with judgment or shame. So here you have an ego centered, little squishy attachment based creature. And I kind of have been joking lately that now enter the ages of one, two, three into that phase two, I think of Eriksson’s developmental cycle. And when you start to move forward, then welcome to the world of abandonment. It can sound dramatic, but as you move into two, three, four or five, six years old and so on, what abandonment looks like at that point is, hey, you can’t stay up past your bedtime or no, you can’t have candy before dinner or we’re not going to go to Disneyland this week.

[00:11:47] And now you can’t have everything that you see when you walk into the store or everything that you see an ad for on TV. So remember that if you are coming forward from the standpoint of when I express my needs, then they are meant to. All of a sudden I’m expressing a need. I need that toy. And now parents are saying now, not today, that they’re all of a sudden it seems like you don’t understand. Old old man, old woman. I’m expressing myself. This is where you then jump to my every every need. So from that moment and I think when I. What I’m talking about this, I’ve got my hands down low to the ground, and because I’m saying that a picture that this is the kid moving forward, that is all that they know. So two things occur at that point from an abandonment and an attachment standpoint. From an abandonment standpoint, again, remember, abandonment equates to death. Now, the person expressing that they desire a toy, they don’t even know that if they don’t get this toy, they think if I don’t get this toy, I’m gonna die. I mean, that’s that is what I need. And this is the sustenance of life is this toy that I just saw on on TV. And you are not meeting my need. So from an abandonment standpoint, then, as we go through life wondering why now are people not meeting my needs, this ego centered, attachment based kid who at that point in life, empathy does not come natural because you are still coming out of this.

[00:13:16] This life is about what I want and what I need. And so I don’t have a true understanding of what my caregivers are going through. So there’s where that lack of empathy as a small kid or adolescent toddler, teenager, any of those things, kind of the genesis of that is that they don’t have that understanding of what someone else is going through. It’s natural that they don’t have that that understanding. And so they also don’t have a way to self advocate or or truly understand how to get their needs met. So from an abandonment standpoint, that’s where things eventually lead to this concept that experts call toxic shame, that that it must be something unlovable about me or else people would be just still meeting my needs. They would be responding to when I react. So I must be broken. I must be unlovable. There’s something wrong with me when in fact it isn’t something wrong with you. It is the reality of growing up in an imperfect world with imperfect parents and and imperfect situations that that concept, that life is it’s chaotic. Life is is suffering. Life is struggle. Life isn’t fair. But we sure don’t understand that when we’re young. I mean, as a matter of fact, we don’t understand that as adults either to be to be quite honest, because that’s a hard concept to understand.

[00:14:28] So there’s your abandonment issues. So it’s the if I would do something different, then I would get my needs met. So something must be wrong with me. Now to that I if I did something different, I would get my needs met. Now we’re talking attachment issues. So you are trying to show up in a way that will get those needs met. If I am the perfectionist, if I make it things very easy, if I’m the peacemaker in my family, if I’m the star athlete, if I’m the humorous one, if I’m withdrawn, well, then my parents say, hey, what’s wrong, buddy? If I’m really angry? Well, people say, fine, fine, you get what you want. So from that attachment standpoint, we’re all starting to try to figure out how do we get those needs met? Because subconsciously or planted in our brains is that if we don’t get our needs met, then that equates to abandonment and abandonment is death. Now, why do I lay all that out before we start talking birth order? Because now you can see that with all of that attachment abandonment going on now enter where do I fall in the family system? Because the where you fall in that family system is going to impact if you are getting those needs met rather naturally or if you really have to try to figure out the landscape and fight for those needs to be met.

[00:15:35] So let’s let’s jump right in and and talk about birth order. So I had started with Dr. Kevin Leman and his book, the birth order book, Why You Are the Way You Are. So psychologists like Lehman believe that the secret to sibling personality difference truly lies in birth order, whether you’re the oldest, the middle, the youngest or an only child. It’s how parents treat the child because of it. There is a family therapist named Mary Wallace, who for over 20 years has been studying birth order, and she’s also the author of the book Birth Order Blues. She agrees. She says some of it has to do with the way that the parent relates to the child in this position. And some of it actually happens because of the spot of that position. Each position has its unique challenges, she explains. So let’s jump in with the first born, first born personality trait.

[00:16:18] So simply by being a couple’s first child, a first born will naturally be raised with a mixture of instinct and trial and error. And this is what often causes parents to become these by the book caregivers. And I remember my wife and I truly were this. I think we literally had a couple of very large, thick books that we were just pouring over in the days prior to our daughter, Alex’s birth. So literal book by the book Caregivers who are extremely attentive and stringent with rules and somewhat overly neurotic about every little detail. So in turn, that may often cause the child to become a perfectionist because they are then always striving to please their parents. first borns, bask in their parent’s presence, which may explain why they sometimes act like many adults.

[00:17:01] And I can think of so many examples of friends. Kids shout out to my my friend Mackell, who we used to joke about, is was a little adult that they would sit around and and want to participate in the conversations that all the adults were having. And it can seem so cute. It really can. And they are also diligent. They want to excel at everything they do as the leader.

[00:17:22] Pack firstborns often tend to be conscientious, reliable, structured, cautious, controlling and achievers and the first born strengths, they are accustomed to being the center of attention because they’ve had mom and dad to themselves for however long it can be years before siblings arrive. And and I mean, this is so true. And I hope that parents don’t read or hear this with guilt and heaven forbid, some shame, just kind of some awareness. But many parents spend so much more time reading and explaining things.

[00:17:51] to first borns, the nightly routines are again, more almost like hypervigilant or neurotic or by the book. And I know so many, so many parents who the baby book of the first kid, the pictures of the first kid, the videos of the first kid, all the books that were read, all the time spent. It was so regimented and consistent that that it just again, it can it can just feel like this is how I’m going to be the rest of my entire life, says the parents. But it is not as easy when other kids come into the picture, says Frank Farley, a Ph.D., a psychologist at Temple University who studied personality and human development for decades. That undivided attention may have a lot to do with why firstborns tend to be overachievers. He explains that in addition to usually scoring higher on IQ tests and generally getting more education than their brothers and sisters, firstborns tend to outearn their siblings. And I have a fun facts of birth order article that that I found as well. 62 interesting birth order facts. And there was something on this list that says firstborns are more likely to make at least a hundred thousand dollars more annually than their siblings. And it’s got some link to research.

[00:18:59] So that is a lot of money. More just from being first born, the first born challenges. Success can come with a price. Firstborns tend to be type A personalities who never cut themselves slack. Dr. Michelle Middelburg said that they often have an intense fear of failure, so nothing they accomplish feels good enough. And because of that, they they dread making a misstep. Oldest kids tend to stick to the straight and narrow path. They are typically inflexible, she says. They don’t like change. They’re hesitant to step out of their comfort zone. And in addition, because first borns are often given a lot of responsibility at home, whether it is helping with chores or watching over younger siblings, they can be quick to take charge and the tiny bit bossy when they do. And that burden can lead to excess stress for a child who already feels this pressure to be perfect. Now, here’s where I think this is going to be fun. I will turn to my interview. I asked my daughter Alex what I did with each of my kids as I read over those. Here’s the facts or the data about the birth order. And then here are the traits. And just I said, what do you what do you think about those?

[00:20:03] And Alex, she said she felt a tremendous amount of pressure to set a good example. And she said that she was very aware that the kids would look up to me. And she said I was aware that their opinion really mattered. And I know that they wanted me to be proud of them, which I loved that take that she said. I know they wanted me to be proud of them. And I can remember instances where she would she wouldn’t say how she loved something that one of the kids would do or she was good about taking each of the kids out when she learned to drive.

[00:20:32] And they would have you know, we still get these memories that pop up in our and our group chats that are times where we have this little little old convertible and they would go and just get ice cream and they would have music blaring and they would have funny videos. And so I feel like each one of the kids has some of those experiences with Alex. And so but when we read the list of those characteristics, man, she said, I feel that she’s like, that’s kind of odd, this kind of creepy. I feel like you’re reading your you know, your listing an awful lot of traits that I feel like she wasn’t very didn’t realize that maybe they were more of these traits of the oldest or the first born. She said she felt a lot of pressure to be perfect. And I thought this was interesting. And this might be because I was literally interviewing her and my wife Wendy was there beside me. But she said she said, but you guys were never strict. So she said, I’m not sure how that correlates. And Wendy and Alex related a story that she said Mom told me in first grade that my teacher, which we remember, Mrs. Maynard, she was amazing that my first grade teacher said that she really tries to be perfect. And Mrs. Maynard had said to Wendy, well, we’ll see how that plays out when she’s older. But she says that there again, there wasn’t a part of her that felt that pressure from us as parents, which I think is kind of interesting. So maybe those of you who have younger kids and you worry that you’re you’re putting this pressure on, I felt like this is one of those fascinating things about birth order that they’re the the child is going to feel that pressure.

[00:21:55] And I think that’s significant. When I laid out the attachment and abandonment issues, the concepts early on in this podcast. Part of that is because the kid is going to view life through their lens. And so and they’re not only viewing life through their lens, their abandonment, their their attachment issues or challenges, but this is that thing where I gave an example a few weeks ago where I was talking with a mom who had a it was like a nine year old and let’s say a 15 year old that were wrestling for. Fine, and then the 15 year old gets hurt, so then the 9 year old thinks it’s their fault and you as a parent can tell the 9 year old, hey, it’s not your fault, but they’re coming at it from their lens, their point of view, their perspective, and where in their mind, if they feel like it was their fault, you can say it wasn’t your fault. But they’re still feeling they get all the feels around.

[00:22:43] That was their fault. So I kind of feel like that speaks to what Alex is talking about, of feeling this pressure. You can tell her, hey, Alex, don’t let the that pressure bother you or you can be whoever you want to be. Or a the kids are going to have their own opinions or any of those things. And she’s still going to interpret things the way that she is. And I think a lot of that is where there’s this importance of just understanding where birth order, what traits that can lead to is is really fascinating. So she said again, no, no part that felt pressure from us necessarily as parents. So she said she’s not sure where that comes from. And she said, I always knew that you guys thought I was a good kid and you guys would say that a lot. But that also led to me feeling like I didn’t want to let you down because we had a good relationship. And we we talked about this one story that I thought was was really funny. One time Alex jumped off of a bunk bed and landed on the computer screen of a laptop and had cracked the computer screen. And she didn’t tell me about it for a couple of days. And we were talking about this again. She said she had never been in trouble, so she was scared. And even that alone. Right. The little perfectionist, the the she was just doing everything right. We were so hyper vigilant on on what we could do to help her. So she felt like she had never been in trouble. So she said she was kind of scared of what that would even be like. She said, I didn’t even have a concept of what it would be like, but I was afraid of what it would be like. And and I remember when she told me and I asked her, what do you remember?

[00:24:09] My reaction was and it’s like, I remember you, you said, oh, things happen. And I said, OK, because I remember I felt so bad because she didn’t feel like she could come tell me and and she said so she was also said some interesting said I was consistently told that I was more mature than I was for my age. But she said that she also felt like she was very indecisive and she she believes she’s maybe carried that through into into her own adulthood. She said, I didn’t want failure or I didn’t want anything to go wrong.

[00:24:36] What if something goes wrong now? She said it can be scary to make a decision. So I feel like her traits line up a lot with that oldest child birth order syndrome peace. And I think that what’s fascinating about it again is and she might have just been saying nice things because I’m her dad and she knew I was going to talk about it on a podcast. But you as a parent can truly be doing everything that you can and feeling like you’re doing things the best to the best of your ability. And trust me, I’m not saying that. And we did. We never made mistakes. Oh, man, we made mistakes. Boy, do parents make mistakes. That’s part of being human. But you can you can, let’s say for the most part, do your very best and and feel like you you gave it your all and your kid can still put a lot of pressure on themselves. So I thought that was really fascinating. So let’s go to the the middle child personality traits. So back to the Jan Brady, the Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, always comparing to Marcia.

[00:25:33] So if a couple decides to have a second child, they may raise their second born with less of an iron fist due to their previous experiences. So they may also be less attentive since there are other children in their lives and therefore the middle child is often a people pleaser due to the lack of attention they get in comparison to older siblings. And then when younger siblings come, come on board.

[00:25:54] The middle child, says therapist Mary Wallace, often feels left out and a sense of, well, not the oldest. I’m not the youngest, who am I? And this sort of hierarchal floundering can lead middle children to make their mark among their peers, since parental attention is usually devoted to the beloved firstborn or the baby of the family. And what’s more, Dr. Leaman says middle children are the toughest to pin down because they can play off of their older sibling. So in general, middle children tend to possess the following birth order personality traits. They can be people pleasers, somewhat rebellious, thrive on friendships, tend to have a larger social circle and often are peacemakers. So middle child strengths, middle borns are go with the flow types. Once the younger sibling arrives, they need to learn to constantly negotiate and compromise in order to fit in with everybody. So, not surprisingly, Dr. Sulloway notes, middle kids score higher in agreeableness than both their older and younger siblings. And because they receive less attention at home, oftentimes middle kids tend to forge stronger bonds with friends and often are less tethered to their family than their brothers or sisters. They they are usually, according to Dr. Linda Dunlap, professor of psychology at Marist College, they’re usually the first of their siblings to take a trip with another family or maybe want to sleep at a friend’s house. Now, the challenges of the middle child, middle kids once lived as the baby, the family until they were dethroned by a new sibling.

[00:27:16] So unfortunately, they are often acutely aware that they don’t get as much parental attention as their, quote, trailblazing older siblings or the beloved youngest, and so they feel like their needs and wants are often ignored, so middle kids are in a different position in a family because they think that they may not be as valued, says Dr. Mettenberger. It’s easy for them to be left out and get lost in the shuffle, and there’s some validity to their complaint. There’s a survey by the baby website.com, which is a British parenting resource that found that a third of parents with three children admit to giving their middle child far less attention than they give to the other two. So let’s turn to my daughter, MacKinley, who is now 20 and my daughter Sydney, who is 18. So those they would fall in as the proverbial middle children at this point. And let me kind of tackle Sydney first. I thought it was really funny. Sydney had just come in from a run and and she just she said she really didn’t feel like being the middle child had any effect on her life. She said she said not that kind of just felt like I was doing my own thing. And Sydney always was more or less doing her own thing. And my wife posited a theory that we had girl, girl, girl, boy.

[00:28:25] And so she said that she kind of felt like maybe Sydney took on traits of the youngest child because she was this youngest girl and then the next kid was boy. So it was completely a different experience for us and even for the older daughters. So she was just that was that was the interview with Syd said she didn’t really feel like it impacted her. And she seems more or less like she’s kind of she’s Gruene. She’s she’s vibing, doing her own thing. So MacKinley, though, we had quite a talk with her and she’s been on the virtual couch a couple of times as a couple episodes out there has been open about some anxiety, some depression struggles. And and so she’s she’s very, very open about her thoughts around these emotions. She said that a lot of those traits she said, I think a lot of it fits me. She said not everything, but a lot of what that I was reading. She said she didn’t realize and this is what I thought was was kind of fun. She realized how many of those qualities may stem from birth order. She she said that she finds herself often a people pleaser. She remembers being a teacher’s pet. She’s also afraid to let people down. And she said she put a lot of effort into that aspect.

[00:29:32] She said if people ask her to do something, she just really feels like she doesn’t want to let them down. In terms of family, though, that’s where we felt like things are a little bit different, she said. In terms of family, you know, she said, you know, that you guys talking about Wendy and myself, you are the guys that I go to. You know, she’s we she calls us are bffs her best friends forever. And so she said but she does realize she didn’t necessarily turn to her siblings and she said she she would in those situations, she would turn to her other friends. She said she wasn’t rebellious, but she said she did feel like if she wanted to do something, that she was going to do it. She said that she only snuck out once her senior year. And this is what’s kind of fun. And I hope that this is the relationship that you are setting the table with, with your parenting. And this goes through an episode I did a couple of weeks ago about parenting today’s teenagers. But she said I snuck out only once my senior year. I didn’t know she had snuck out her senior year. She said that she was already 18.

[00:30:28] And and so she just said, you know, here’s here was that experience. So she said, I wasn’t really rebellious, but if I was going to do something, if I wanted to do something, I was going to do it. And Wendy said and I thought this was interesting, too, she said she was so aware of not wanting our kids to have that middle child syndrome that she said she tried super hard to not have that happen. And and there’s a story that goes from back in the early days where I think it had to do with we live next door to my wife’s sister and their six kids. And so the cousins were just we were back and forth at each other’s houses forever. And so Macki, I think her and her niece or my niece, her cousin Taylor, either both felt that they were truly adopted or but Maggie said that for a while she truly believed that she was adopted. And when she was younger, she said that she was always trying to live up to expectations, though. And my wife pointed out it was pretty interesting. They both said, man, Mackey did all the things. She won all the awards, the sports awards, the academic awards.

[00:31:27] If she did something, she was going to be the best. And so we just asked her, did that come from feeling like you didn’t live up to Alex’s standard? And she said maybe a little bit, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. She maybe felt like that came from a bit of an inner drive. And and if the other kids, though, are making decisions, Mackie often feels like she wouldn’t insert herself. And I think that was where then she felt like she needed to turn to others to help make decisions, whether it was Wendy and I or her friends. Circle fun story, somewhat rebellious. I questioned. And she just she has a very confident streak and it has been there forever where if there is an authority figure, this isn’t from like an oppositional defiant disorder kind of outburst. But she wants fairness. And she said adults are not allowed to just be rude because they’re older and there is. A great story, and I jotted notes down and I should have written out the story because I’m sure I will butcher it, but there was a story where I think she was I want to say 10, 11, 12 years old.

[00:32:33] And we had a we had a basketball and it had her name on it. And one of the neighborhood kids, it was a kid somewhat around her age. They had lost their ball. So they grabbed Macky’s Ball and and they took it inside. And so Macchi, I think with, she said later that she had her posse around her.

[00:32:53] I think she had siblings that maybe the cousins, some other kids in the neighborhood. So she got the ball, she found the ball. It was in the bushes. It was flat. It was a completely different color than her ball. And so it goes and knocks on the door. And she she has the ball. She and she said, hey, the ball that you guys have, that’s my ball. C has my name on it and this is yours. And Wendy said at that point, I think when he was in the garage outside and she said, Oh, I remember I heard you say, here’s your dumb ball. And Mackey threw the ball down on the ground. And that was not to the kid that was in front of the mom.

[00:33:24] So Mackey’s always had a bit of this sense of justice or and maybe that was her rebellious nature. So that that’s my interview with my middle kids. So one that said it didn’t necessarily affect her. She didn’t feel like those traits necessarily spoke to her. And then with Mackey, she didn’t realize that a lot of those qualities do actually stem from birth order. So let’s get to the youngest child. So my youngest child again, maybe we can say that I had two youngest children, a youngest daughter and youngest son. So my youngest son, Jake, who is now pushing 17, I think in just a few days and first boy that we had. But youngest children tend to be when I want to frame this one. So this is where my wife and I are both the youngest kids and my daughter Alex’s husband, Mitch, is also the youngest child. So when I was going over this, the youngest child, this was with Wendy, Mitch and myself and Alex was listening as well.

[00:34:18] Youngest children tend to be the most free spirited due to their parents increasingly laissez faire attitude toward parenting the second or third or fourth or fifth time around. So the baby, the family tends to have the following birth order traits.

[00:34:29] And, oh, man, I hate to do this to you, but I am just now realizing that I am the world’s worst promoter. So let me just let me just insert a quick ad for Betterhelp.com and then we are going to be quick, I promise. I think it’s like a minute, maybe a little bit over a minute, and then we’ll get to those traits of the youngest child. So I’ll be right back.

[00:34:48] And today’s episode of The Virtual Couch is brought to you by Betterhelp.com and sure 2020. It may finally be in our rearview mirrors, but for so many people, there is a lot of catching up to do a lot of processing necessary, a lot of motivation needed. So you owe it to yourself, your family, your kids that we’re going to talk about today, your pets, your future spouse, your future children, future you, whatever it is you need to tap into to get help, do what over a million people have done already. Visit Betterhelp.com/virtualcouch and get ten percent off your first one service. Answer a few questions and you’ll find a therapist that fits your need, fits your preferences, whether you’re looking for help in dealing with depression or anxiety, relationships, trauma, grief, OCD and more, with betterhelp.com counselors, licensed professional therapists. Yet the same professionalism and quality you would expect from an in office counselor, but with the ability to communicate when and how you want. So again, that’s Betterhelp.com/virtualcouch. What are you waiting for, 10 percent off your first month services.

[00:35:41] Go give it a shot today and we are back. OK, not sure if you fast forwarded through that. Sometimes I fast forward through commercials and I go a little bit too far and have to go back and find and then I feel like I should have just listened to the commercial anyway. But youngest children, here we go. They tend to have the following birth order traits, fun, loving, uncomplicated, manipulative, outgoing, attention seeker and self-centered. What a list. Right. And the best part about this is Mitch is listening and he just says, yep. And I think at the same time I said, yeah, that sounds like me, but these are so not my wife.

[00:36:15] So I feel like, you know, there’s where birth order is not necessarily an exact science. So my wife, Wendy, had a completely different reaction to hearing those traits of the youngest so youngest child strengths. Last borns generally aren’t the this was, I don’t think, mitch either. One appreciated this last words, generally not the strongest or the smartest in the room. So they develop their own ways of winning attention, their natural Chalmers with an outgoing social personality. No surprise then that many famous actors and comedians are the baby of the family, or that they score higher in agreeableness on personality tests, then firstborns. According to Dr. Celebes, research youngest also make a play for the spotlight with their adventurousness. This is where Mitch started to chuckle a bit. Free spirited last borns are more open to unconventional experiences and taking physical risks than their siblings. Research has shown that they’re more likely to play sports like football and soccer than their older siblings who preferred activities like track and tennis. My son in law, Mitch, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that is more of a daredevil we joked about I think Alex said, yeah, he was the last to read in his family, but he was the first to back flip into an open volcano on the island of Hawaii. And there are some man if. I had more time or if I would have thought about this ahead, I can link to a video of him doing the set back flip, but jumping off of bridges, doing all kinds of crazy things. He has this sense of adventure. And so I think Wendy had a theory.

[00:37:36] And let me say, I think I put it on my notes here that we pull up Mitch. So initially I couldn’t couldn’t read. So he had to backflip first into a volcano. He said my parents were as strict with Mitch. He felt liked, but all of his siblings think that Mitch was the most spoiled and but he said that they’re all spoiled and they can’t give him examples when they say that he was more spoiled. But, Mitch, that he feels like maybe they didn’t necessarily support him with things, but they spoiled him with time. But Wendys theory was that if the kid the last born isn’t getting in, I would go back to the abandonment attachment stuff that the parents already been through. Everything.

[00:38:15] First time, first time somebody read, first time somebody rode a bike, first time somebody is going to run to college, the first time somebody played a sport or any of those things. So maybe that is why the kid goes a little bit more to the adventurous zone I couldn’t think of. I’m not a jump into volcanoes, but I don’t know, maybe one hundred and fifty ultramarathons or so and some runs for 125 miles or around a track for 24 hours or, you know, through the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada is through the night or those sort of things that maybe that could be considered extreme or a tiny bit dangerous. So maybe that’s where I was getting my, my, my thrill and my wife for the fact that she doesn’t check off any most of those traits of the youngest.

[00:38:56] She has done the Ironman triathlon. She swam from Alcatraz to the shore eight different times. There’s sharks in the water. I wouldn’t I wouldn’t even get in that bay. And she’s done that race eight times. So maybe there is a little bit of her is. So I think that checks the adventurous box. So youngest there is the youngest, the youngest to make that play for the spotlight with their adventurousness. So youngest child challenges youngest are known often for that feeling of nothing that I do is important, according to Dr. Lehman. He notes that none of their accomplishments necessarily seem original. Their siblings have already learned to talk, read and write a bike. I think I just spoke to that. So parents react with less spontaneous joy at their accomplishments and may even wonder. I thought he would catch on faster. So from an awareness standpoint, maybe that’s something for parents to check. I don’t know. I don’t have memories necessarily of a laissez faire reaction to my younger kids pulling things off for the first time. But I think that’s a really good point or something to be aware of. If you have younger kids, last borns also learn to use their role as the baby to manipulate others in order to get their way. They are the least likely to be disciplined. Dr. Lehman notes. I think that’s true. Parents often coddle the littlest when it comes to chores and rules, failing to hold them to the same standards as their siblings. So back to my interview with my kids and talking to Jake about that. Jake said that he really I love he just straight up said he said he felt like he really enjoyed being the youngest child. He said, because I felt like you guys already had the experience with the older kids. And Jake is definitely not afraid of the spotlight as he is.

[00:40:27] I mentioned in the opening a nationally ranked basketball player, taking big shots at the end of games and and has had some amazing experiences there where he just seems to be in that moment in the flow. Not afraid of the big moment, not afraid of stepping up. But he’s had some experiences where he’s stood up for friends and and has done some I feel like heroic things that other kids his age maybe wouldn’t do because they would be afraid of the reaction of others or the reaction of parents. And Jake and I then had a great conversation about the concept of secure attachment.

[00:41:00] I’ve done nothing but try to give my kids a secure attachment, meaning that that check my own reaction. I want them to know they can come and tell me anything. I’m human. I mean, I may have a reaction, but I am going to seek first to understand before being understood. And so with that secure attachment, looks like to your teenager is they know that they can that you’re going to listen. They know that you’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt. They know that you’re going to help them. You’re going to be there to help them through situations. And I think that’s one of those things as a parent, that it does feel like a bit of a gamble that if we are always there for them, that they’ll never learn anything. And I feel like that is that is that is a trick of the brain that because, you know, sometimes it’s that we worry that we won’t do the right thing and we won’t be there in the right way. But in being there for a kid, it doesn’t teach them learned helplessness. I feel like it really in a secure, attached way can teach them that they can go forward with confidence because they know that if things don’t go well, that you have their back as a parent.

[00:41:58] So that’s more of what Jake’s experience was. And then if you look at that, if my daughter, Sydney, was the youngest of the three daughters, so if she had some of that younger child piece as well, I think that then those traits do speak more to her because I feel like she was and is more free spirited and a little bit more risk averse. So she’s willing to take risks in her life as well. There’s one more categoryt. And that one is the only children personality traits. There’s only a little bit of information here and and I wasn’t an only child. I did have my brother passed away when I was in my early 20s. So, you know, I’ve lived the last 30 years or so as more or less an only child. But I think as an adult at that point, it’s it’s much different, but only child personality traits. Being an only child is a unique position without any siblings to compete with the only child monopolizes his parents attention and resources, not just for a short period of time like the firstborn, but forever. And in fact, this makes an only child something like a super first born. Only children have the privilege and the burden of having all their parents support. I love that there’s that contrast of having all of their parents support and expectations on their shoulders. Thus, only children tend to be incredibly mature for their age. Perfectionist, conscientious, diligent and often first or only children are leaders. So let me just hit a couple of the 62 interesting birth order facts.

[00:43:16] I’ll link to that because there are so many. But I think a lot of the things that we just talked about, the fun facts of birth order, and these are all backed up with the nice evidence based study and they have footnotes that talk about that. So there are some researchers say that the apparent disadvantages middle children endure can actually help them be more empathetic, independent and articulate. Because last borns view their older siblings is bigger, faster and smarter. They may attempt to differentiate themselves by being more rebellious, firstborns, as I mentioned, or more likely to make more annually financially than their siblings. And this was an interesting fact that I read the research on this one. When there is a five to six year gap between children, the next child starts, quote, new family and new birth order. So I thought that was really interesting as well. Sometimes extenuating circumstances tweak the natural birth order sequences so that then a later born child may act like the first born or a first born can seem to have characteristics that are inconsistent with the way firstborns are supposed to act. And sometimes that can be special needs children if they’re born that way, or if there were some medical emergencies or those type of things that can shift that birth order as well. Second, children are the most known for going the opposite direction from the first born in the family.

[00:44:28] And because first borns are often given more responsibility at home, the babysitting younger siblings helping with chores that they can be quick to take charge. And as I mentioned, a little bit firstborns tend to score higher on IQ tests and typically get more education than their brothers and sisters. So this is one that you can rub in. Again, a lot of first-born stuff. They can rub into the younger siblings. A 2007 study showed a correlation between IQ and birth order. The more siblings one has the lower one’s IQ. And let’s see, there’s a couple of other things. Generally firstborns or only children are conscientious, well organized, serious, goal oriented, achieving people pleasers and believers in authority. Other traits include perfectionistic, reliable and self-reliant. And the qualities of the middle child are often mediator. Compromising diplomatic avoids conflict, independent, loyal to peers, many friends, a maverick and unspoiled, and approximately 1300 new blended families form every day in the US, and approximately 40 percent of all marriages represent a remarriage of one or both parties if the remarriage continues at this rate. Thirty five percent of all children born will live in a stepfamily by the time they reach 18, and approximately one in six children under the age of 18 is a step child.

[00:45:41] And research notes the middle children are the most secretive of all birth orders. And then qualities of the last born include manipulative, charming, blames others, attention seeker, tenacious people, person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate and love surprises. And there’s a lot of those traits that, as a last born, I can admittedly say, are quite correct. There’s some really funny things here. A middle child who marries another middle child desires peace at any price, which can actually lead to avoidance. Having some of those avoidant attachments, their marriage may have a quiet surface with all kinds of storms brewing underneath. They’re more likely to not communicate well because they feel it isn’t worth the hassle to confront each other. So this marriage therapist says they need my upcoming magnetic marriage course. So go go check that out. One marriage counselor noted that for the first principle, not a rule, for riskier marriages to marry someone in your own birth order. In other words, the firstborn marrying a first born or middle child marrying a middle child. But I did find this one. I didn’t tell my wife this one. She’s still listening. I think she will get a chuckle. A couple consisting of two last borns is more likely to get into debt again. My wife and I are both last borns. If there is a generalization, one generalization someone can make about middle children is that they do feel squeezed or dominated or what has been known, as we mentioned, the middle child syndrome.

[00:47:01] And there I will do I’m ready to want to jump out of here. I don’t want this to go on too long. But let’s see, there is one. I’m just going on and on here. Twenty eight out of forty four US presidents or 64 percent have been firstborns. I see researchers distinguish actual birth order or abbo the. Numerical rank or order in which someone is born and psychological birth order or PEBO or self perceived perception in the family, actual and psychological birth order can vary for various reasons. And this is what I was mentioning earlier, including illness of a child, family size, degree of separation between siblings and so on. Firstborns tend to walk and talk earlier than later borns. And let’s see, there was one to talk to. Here we go. Out of the 23 American astronauts and into outer space, 21 were first born and the other two were only children. And lets see, when a child is born with special needs, younger siblings may take on that first born role. And generally speaking, children are typically more affected, influenced the most by whoever is directly above them in the family. So I will tap out there.

[00:48:09] I hope that you found this fascinating. And again, with awareness, as Spider-Man did not say, comes great power. So with that awareness, this doesn’t mean that there you go. You’re lot in life. You are set to this forever. But I hope that if you put this through that abandonment attachment lens that I framed everything at the beginning with, to just know that we’re all just a little pink, squishy attachment based creatures trying to get our needs met and trying to figure out how to do so. And birth order definitely affects how we are showing up and how we are trying to get those needs met. But you are now an adult.

[00:48:40] You have the power within you to be aware of what these tendencies may bring and then what you can do to overcome them if there are different traits that you wish to seek or different values that you seek to embrace. So thank you so much for taking the time to listen today and I will see you next time on the virtual couch.

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