Birth order is fascinating. It can have an effect on everything from our personality to our earning power, to how we compete for attention. Generally, people focus more on birth order in terms of its effects on the relationships between siblings, and less on its effect on the relationships between parents and children.
But with Mother's Day around the corner (celebrated in October in some parts of the world, in comparison to May in the United States), we got curious: How does a mother's relationship with her children differ based on birth order?
We know firstborns are take-charge people with a desire to prove themselves, and last-born siblings tend to be more adventurous. But how does this affect relationships with their mom?
Elite Daily reached out to Dr. Jeffrey B. Rubin, a practicing psychotherapist and teacher of meditation in New York City and Bedford Hills, New York. His latest book, The Art of Flourishing: A Guide to Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Love in a Chaotic World, is available on Amazon.
Here's what Dr. Rubin had to say about birth order's effect on maternal relationships:
Before becoming the oldest child in the family, the firstborn child was an only child. This means that they were given the undivided love and attention of their mothers throughout all the major milestones.
"Birth is a miraculous process, so there is a special bond between firstborn and the parent. They may take on the hopes and dreams of the parent, and may feel they have a sort of destiny to fulfill for them," says Dr. Rubin.
Having the mother's undivided love and attention gives a firstborn child a strong sense of confidence, as they internalize their mother's desire to see them succeed.
They make great leaders, as they are given a chance to take on this role in their developmental years.
However, firstborn children may have difficulty letting go of parental expectations well into adulthood, molding and shaping their lives in much the same way as their mother did.
According to Dr. Rubin, "Middle children neither have the well-defined role of the oldest or the youngest child, and can get lost in the shuffle a bit. Their relationship to their mother is a little more difficult to define, as each case is different."
What we do know about middle children is their lack of a defined role in the family allows more flexibility in their development. They are good negotiators, but may struggle with their sense of identity and belonging.
The mother can take on a more defined attitude with the other siblings, according to Dr. Rubin. With the oldest, she can take on the perspective of, "I don't have to worry about you," and with the youngest, a mother tends to carry an attitude of, "You'll always be my baby" well into adulthood.
So for the middle child, not being stuck in any defined role by a parent can be a freeing influence in their life. Middle children are more likely to go outside of the family for connections, and are more likely to move away from home in adulthood.
According to Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children,
Although middles are neglected, both by parents and researchers, they actually benefit from this in the long run. They become more independent, think outside the box, feel less pressure to conform, and are more empathetic.
This naturally leads to a more well-adjusted relationship with parents in adulthood, as middle children are less likely to take on and get stuck in one role their entire lives.
From what Dr. Rubin has observed clinically, "The youngest can be viewed as the weakest in the family, and the mother can overcompensate. Mothers can make extra efforts to bolster [their youngest children], to build them up."
The result of this, says Rubin, is that "the youngest may always feel like the youngest. They could always feel like the youngest, even when they're 38. You can hear it in the language a mother uses, always referring to the youngest as 'my baby.'"
In cases like this, Rubin says, the youngest may grow up to be overly-dedicated to the family, using the act of giving as a pathway to love.
However, "A mother has to allow her child to raise her as well, to expand her consciousness, to grow with her kid, and this happens sometimes and sometimes doesn't," according to Dr. Rubin.
One thing is for sure, their bond with their parents is more likely to stay very parent-child, because the youngest tends to remain feeling like the youngest their whole lives.
This can develop into an "I'll show them" attitude, which is both a weakness and a strength.
In their desire to stand out and break free, younger siblings can grow up to be more carefree, easygoing, fun-loving, affectionate, sociable, and funny human beings.