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Your place in the family


FAMOUS LAST-BORN: Johnny Depp. Photo: PA

FAMOUS LAST-BORN: Johnny Depp. Photo: PA

FAMOUS LAST-BORN: Johnny Depp. Photo: PA

Your place in the family - first-born, middle, last or single child - can be a key factor in making you who you are. Clinical psychologist Linda Blair reveals its effects

We're all unique little characters when we are born and then our personalities are further shaped by a variety of factors as we grow up - whether it's the influences of our parents, our childhood backgrounds, or our experiences, both positive and negative.

But, there's one simple way of understanding ourselves and others better, according to clinical psychologist Linda Blair, who identifies birth order - our position in the family - as key in influencing the way we think and behave.

She points out that many studies show the foundations of character are established primarily before the age of six or seven - a period when your place in the family was a big factor in your life.

"Many of us sense, quite rightly, I think, that our place in the family must make a difference but birth order needs to be put into context, says Blair, whose new book, Birth Order, pinpoints the characteristics of each of the four main family positions: first-born, middle-born, last-born and only child.

"It can show us so much more beyond the stereotype assumption that an only child is a 'loner' or a last child is 'spoiled'. In fact, looking at these positions can significantly help us understand ourselves and others," says Blair.

Check out how your place in the family affects your life.

The first born

When you were a baby you enjoyed the exclusive attention of your parents, but probably within the first four years of life had to begin sharing the focus with a new sibling. This loss, experienced before your own sense of security was established, means your thirst for approval will probably always feel as if it can't be quenched.

You were academically successful and are organised, responsible, and conservative in your views and keen to please those in authority. You may seek a leadership role in adult life as you like to be in control.

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But your deep-seated fear of rejection, a sub-conscious effect of your early childhood experience, means you dread failure and are liable to feel easily hurt by any criticism levelled at you by an authority figure and are more likely than others to suffer from feelings of insecurity and jealousy.

CAREER: Ideally, you need to be a leader and take responsibility and you're most likely to take on conventional caring roles such as a teacher, doctor or nurse.

You'll thrive where someone keeps a check on your tendency to take on too much and strive to do everything too perfectly, otherwise you're prone to burnout.

PARTNER: A first-born and a last-born often pair well as the organised, caring first-born will find it natural to nurture a less organised, more dependent last-born.

A first-born and a middle-born may work as the latter is used to allowing someone to take charge, but a particularly dominating first-born should be aware of not overwhelming their partner and taking care to allow them to express their feelings.

Among the most difficult partnerships can be two first-borns or a first-born and a single, as both are inclined to compete and conflict is likely. One will probably need to find an opportunity to dominate outside the relationship.

We're all unique little characters when we are born and then our personalities are further shaped by a variety of factors as we grow up - whether it's the influences of our parents, our childhood backgrounds, or our experiences, both positive and negative.

Famous first-borns: Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, and JK Rowling.

The Middle-born

For families of three or more children, all those in between the first and last born fall into this category. If the gap between you and the next child is more than three years, you'll probably have some qualities that are typical of both a middle and a last-born.

Your parents were probably more relaxed about parenting than with your older sibling and treated you in a more matter-of-fact manner, so you're likely to be less of a worrier.

Also, because you had to work harder for attention you're socially skilled, probably the diplomat of the family, and inclined to offer compromise even sometimes at your own expense.

Middle-borns normally focus on areas where a first-born, usually academically successful, hasn't achieved so you may have pursued creative areas - sport, art and music.

You're easily swayed by the opinions of others and frequently plagued by a lack of direction because you have trouble recognising what you really want or need in life. You're often the first child in the family to leave home.

CAREER: Working in a team suits you. You're likely to feel most fulfilled if some of your work is involved with the needs of the less privileged, as you have an empathy with those who've been overlooked or neglected. If you work alone, you may struggle with motivation as there's no one to set goals.

PARTNER: Your compromising nature makes you a good partner for someone in any other birth-order position. But if your partner's another middle-born you might both be so deferential to each other's opinions you'll struggle to make decisions.

Famous middle-borns: Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Diana, Princess of Wales

The last-born

You're the one everyone in the family loved to look after and help with any problems, and even when you behaved in an immature way your parents probably indulged you as 'the baby.'

Last-borns tend to be social and attention-seeking, but may have a manipulative tendency. You're also creative, innovative, and likely to be rebellious and a risk-taker. But you may have self-esteem issues as you've grown up feeling you constantly lagged behind everyone else in the family.

If you became too accustomed to being looked after and having things provided for you, there's a danger that in adulthood you may feel let down and blame others when things don't automatically go your way.

CAREER: You thrive when working at your own pace and in creative fields - design, invention and innovation. You need to learn organisation skills early on, and respond if superiors impose guidelines in a way that lets you imagine you have more freedom than you actually do. Self-discipline and working alone is hard for you.

PARTNER: A first-born is a happy choice for you as they'll consider it natural to look after you, unless your rebelliousness conflicts with their conventional nature. Pairing with a middle-born will be an amicable but a less goal-directed relationship, while pairing with another last-born could be a creative partnership but runs the risk of being chaotic if neither are organised. Last-borns and only children, the latter who tend to be sensible and conscientious, make a good match.

Famous last-borns: Johnny Depp, Joan of Arc and Eddie Murphy.

The only child

You're likely to be self-confident and assertive because you've enjoyed full parental focus and it was your parents' choice to limit the family to one. If they were, in fact, desperate for more children they may then have spoiled and over-protected you, in which case you'll be at risk of feeling dissatisfied and expect others to do everything for you in adult life.

You're organised and, having grown up largely among adults, are skilful at handling emotions and behaving logically, and are happy entertaining yourself and being alone.

But you may find group activities difficult and more likely to behave in ways others feel difficult to understand. You have a perfectionist streak, dislike disorder and appear impatient and demanding when things don't go according to plan as that makes you feel anxious and unhappy at a loss of control.

CAREER: You work best on your own or, if you're part of a team, you're happiest if you're in charge of your own department and working to deadlines. If you work alone your conscientious nature might lead to overwork, and you may need help marketing yourself as your childhood's not given you insight into understanding the desires and motivations of others.

PARTNER: You're best match may be a last-born, who'll introduce adventure into a relationship as long as they're not too unconventional for you. A middle-born with his/her gift for compromise will also work, while a single who pairs with another single child, or a single and a first-born, may not mesh easily as each partner may wish to dominate.

Famous only children: Tiger Woods, Leonardo da Vinci, and Franklin D Roosevelt.

INFORMATION: Birth Order by Linda Blair is published by Piatkus, priced £12.99. Out now.

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